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Simple expert systems to improve an ultrasonic sensor‐system for a tele‐operated mobile‐robot

David Sanders (Mechanical and Design Engineering, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Giles Tewkesbury (Mechanical and Design Engineering, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Ian J. Stott (Mechanical and Design Engineering, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
David Robinson (Electronic and Computer Engineering, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Sensor Review

ISSN: 0260-2288

Article publication date: 28 June 2011




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how to make tele‐operated tasks easier using an expert system to interpret joystick and sensor data.


Current tele‐operated systems tend to rely heavily on visual feedback and experienced operators. Simple expert systems improve the interaction between an operator and a tele‐operated mobile‐robot using ultrasonic sensors. Systems identify potentially hazardous situations and recommend safe courses of action. Because pairs of tests and results took place, it was possible to use a paired‐samples statistical test.


Results are presented from a series of timed tasks completed by tele‐operators using a joystick to control a mobile‐robot via an umbilical cable. Tele‐operators completed tests both with and without sensors and with and without the new expert system and using a recently published system to compare results. The t‐test was used to compare the means of the samples in the results.

Research limitations/implications

Time taken to complete a tele‐operated task with a mobile‐robot partly depends on how a human operator interacts with the mobile‐robot. Information about the environment was restricted and more effective control of the mobile‐robot could have been achieved if more information about the environment had been available, especially in tight spaces. With more information available for analysis, the central processor could have had tighter control of robot movements. Simple joysticks were used for the test and they could be replaced by more complicated haptic devices. Finally, each individual set of tests was not necessarily statistically significant so that caution was required before generalising the results.

Practical implications

The new systems described here consistently performed tasks more quickly than simple tele‐operated systems with or without sensors to assist. The paper also suggests that the amount of sensor support should be varied depending on circumstances. The paired samples test was used because people (tele‐operators) were inherently variable. Pairing removed much of that random variability. When results were analysed using a paired‐samples statistical test then results were statistically significant. The new systems described in this paper were significantly better at p<0.05 (95 per cent probability that this result would not occur by chance alone).


The paper shows that the new system performed every test faster on average than a recently published system used to compare the results.



Sanders, D., Tewkesbury, G., Stott, I.J. and Robinson, D. (2011), "Simple expert systems to improve an ultrasonic sensor‐system for a tele‐operated mobile‐robot", Sensor Review, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 246-260.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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