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Teleoperation (or remote operation) indicates operation of a system or machine at a distance. It is similar in meaning to the phrase "remote control" but is usually encountered in research, academic and technical environments. It is most commonly associated with robotics and mobile robots but can be applied to a whole range of circumstances in which a device or machine is operated by a person from a distance.
The term teleoperation is in use in research and technical communities as a standard term for referring to operation at a distance. This is as opposed to telepresence which is a less standard term and might refer to a whole range of existence or interaction that include a remote connotation.
The history of teleoperation can be traced back to the beginnings of radio communication and Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla developed some of the first principles and systems to perform teleoperation in the late 1800s as outlined in such documents as U.S. patent 613,809 (Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles.
Teleoperation is now moving into the hobby industry with first-person view (FPV) equipment. FPV equipment mounted on hobby cars, planes and helicopters give a TV-style transmission back to the operator, extending the range of the vehicle to greater than line-of-sight range.
There are several particular types of systems that are often controlled remotely:
- Entertainment systems (i.e. televisions, VCRs, DVD players etc.) are often controlled remotely via a remote control.
- Industrial machinery is often operated remotely, particularly in hazardous environments. One notable example is in the construction of the Object Shelter or sarcophagus at Chernobyl after the Chernobyl accident.
- Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are extensively used in hazardous environments (i.e. radioactive environments, contaminated environments, minefields, deep oceans).
- Remote surgery
- Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones