Hospital's 'robot' workforce will help infection fight

The UK’s first healthcare sector deployment of Automated Transport System – ATS – ‘supply robots’ is being commissioned at the new £300m Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Running between service lifts through a subterranean corridor network, the fleet of 12 ATLIS 3000 ATSs from JBT Corporation are programmed to perform both delivery and removal applications.

Some ATS vehicles will be assigned to ‘clean tasks’, such as moving foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals, and others to ‘dirty tasks’, like taking away clinical waste and used linen. The separation of tasks will reduce the chances of infection transference, the hospital says.

The ATLIS 3000s at Forth Valley Royal have been fitted with fork-lift arms customised for standard NHS carts and containers. Scheduled tasks can be reprioritised in the event of an emergency situation, or other exigency, on an ad hoc basis.

Each vehicle is remotely controlled via a wireless link that overlays the hospital’s multichannel radio frequency network. Each ATS has a dedicated IP (Internet Protocol) address used to log its itinerary, and navigates using an onboard electronic routemap directing encoded drive wheels.

Primary laser scanners check that routes are followed correctly, with secondary laser scans at ground level used to activate alarms about obstacles or other unusual occurrences. Each ATS also has an onboard 360º-pan webcam that can be activated to give control room staff direct view of a vehicle’s surroundings.

Onboard diagnostics keep a backend reporting system apprised of maintenance requirements; each ATS has a potential operational life of 20 years, claims JBT Corporation european business development manager Kenny Watson, as operating in controlled capacities reduces the wear such vehicles experience when worked under human operation, or in open-air environments.

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