The Adroit MK2 robotic arm is based on knowledge gathered during work on a prosthetic arm for amputees

Prosthetic arm turns into bomb-disposal robot

An American company has developed an advanced prosthetic arm and turned it into a remotely controlled robot capable of deactivating explosives.

The Adroit MK2 robotic arm developed by HDT global works almost identically to that of a human. Its three fingers can get hold of human tools like drills or knives and perform elaborate task, disassembling dangerous bombs while the technician operating the robot stays safely up to one kilometre away.

“The original project was for the American Advanced Defence Research Projects Agency as a part of a programme called Revolutionising Prosthetics,” said HDT Global’s CEO Tom Van Doren, speaking to the E&T Magazine at the recent Defence and Security Event in London. “It was a light-weight human shaped, human-sized human-strength arm and we took that capability and we have put as much of it as we could afford to put in a less expensive military arm.”

While the prosthetic arm designed to help amputees was controlled by brain sensors, the explosive ordinance disposal robot is steered by a joystick using natural movements of the operator’s arm and hand.

“You actually use your hand in a way you would normally use it, although you are missing a couple of fingers – you use your three fingers to operate the three fingers of the arm – we wanted it to be as natural as it possibly can, which is a very difficult task to do, but we think we got it right,” said Van Doren.

The robot and the arm itself are fitted with cameras monitoring the situation around. The signal is transmitted in real-time to the operator’s laptop, who can then steer the robot accordingly. It requires barely six hours of training to be able to perform basic tasks like holding and using a drill with the robotic arm.

“We have a version of this that can go under water up to one hundred meters of depth,” van Doren added. “It is the same idea – it is very dangerous for a diver to be under water for a great length of time, so we have a small and very dexterous arm that can be used under water instead of putting a human at risk.”

The project is now in testing, however, the team hopes to see first real applications in a year.

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