HDT GLOBAL: A Collaboration for Simplifying Complex Tasks in Dangerous Environments


HDT Global’s Adroit® robot manipulators are highly customizable and durable robot arms, capable of being deployed in a variety of environments and situations. HDT was looking for a solution that provides out-of-the-box planning capabilities to execute complex tasks autonomously, such as opening a door, picking up explosive devices, or inspecting unknown objects.


Historically, robotic arms have been operated using gaming-style controllers. This task is cognitively burdensome and time consuming especially in a high-stress environment typical of operators in law enforcement, SWAT, or the military operations.

Recognizing the downsides of the conventional approach, HDT wished to relieve the cognitive load on the operator by adding partially autonomous object identification and trajectory planning as well as a means of sequencing simple sub-tasks into more complex behaviors. This would allow the operator to focus on higher level concerns such as overall mission planning and selection of appropriate strategies instead of the tedium of controlling every motion of the manipulator.


HDT collaborated with PickNik to integrate MoveIt Pro with their Adroit arms. MoveIt Pro provides powerful out-of-the-box autonomy that HDT was looking for to minimize an operator’s cognitive burden and increase overall operational effectiveness. By integrating their Adroit arms with MoveIt Pro, HDT was able to easily access existing capabilities and also build their own sophisticated extensions with MoveIt Pro’s development capability.

The collaboration required back and forth communication between HDT and PickNik engineers to add improvements to both the relevant ROS 2 driver packages and to MoveIt Pro. The improvements included adding velocity and effort feedback in order to support joint velocity smoothing, testing and tuning different controller types to improve trajectory tracking and pincer operation, and tweaking description packages to enable features like automatic grasping. MoveIt Pro features were modified or added to fully support HDT’s custom hardware and drivers and to enable custom behavior development by HDT’s engineers.


In approximately two months, PickNik was able to integrate HDT’s hardware, perform canned autonomy functions, and train HDT staff on the use of MoveIt Pro’s operator interface and developer features. Once reasonable joint trajectory tracking was achieved, HDT was able to run a number of “out of the box” objectives for things like picking objects, turning door handles, and opening cabinet doors. The collaboration between HDT Global and PickNik successfully integrated the Adroit Arm with MoveIt Pro and delivered on its promise of increasing autonomy and operator feedback for executing complex tasks autonomously. The solution provided by PickNik allowed HDT to achieve its goal of providing an operator interface with autonomous manipulation capabilities while still allowing their engineers to develop custom robotics solutions for individual use cases.