Maybe these aren't the droids you're looking for, but what these robots lack in Star Wars panache, they make up for in real-world utility.

Four teams of University of Pennsylvania students demonstrated that utility Monday afternoon in the final round of Penn's Y Prize Competition. These and other teams proposed applications for robotic technologies developed at Penn's General Robotics Automation Sensing and Perception laboratory.

The three-person team Identified (emphasis on the IED — for "improvised explosive devices") was the winner, which presented a plan to use flying quadrotor robots to detect hidden IEDs with ground-penetrating radar. The team comprised two students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Kelsey Duncombe-Smith and Richard Zhang, and Wharton Ph.D. student Andy Wu. The team will receive a $5,000 prize and non-exclusive rights to commercialize the Penn-owned technology that their proposal is based upon.

The other finalist teams each presented a robotic prototype for such real-world applications as security patrol, building construction inspection, and the injection and vital sign monitoring of livestock.


Photos by Emma Lee, for NewsWorks