disaster area

Two-armed construction robot clears disaster area debris with ease

A dual-armed construction robot has been created by Japanese researchers, who believe it drastically improves operability and mobility in disaster-relief situations in comparison to conventional construction machines.

In disaster areas, operating heavy construction equipment remotely and autonomously is necessary, but conventional remote-controlled heavy equipment often faces significant problems that are difficult to overcome.

They can be too large and cumbersome to deal with in many disaster scenarios, can have limited mobility on slopes and stairs and imprecise remote controls lower their efficiency when clearing debris.

The group of researchers from a number of Japanese universities have developed a prototype robot with a double-swing, dual-arm mechanism and hydraulic-powered robotic hands to overcome these issues.

The prototype two-armed robot

It is capable of handling heavy objects while excavating and gripping with its high-powered hands, as well as being able to adapt to different terrain types.

Its double-swing, dual-arm mechanism is placed on the same axis, allowing it to use bearings with a far bigger diameter on its rotation portion in comparison to humans and animals, whose shoulder joints are arranged on different axes.

The arms are positioned close to the robot’s centre of gravity, giving it a high degree of stability. This structure allows the robot to withstand high loads and perform heavy-duty work.

Additionally, since each coaxially-arranged arm rotates at 360 degrees, there is no distinction between right and left arms, allowing the operator to freely change the layout of the robot’s hands.

This group also developed a four-fingered hand that has been attached to one of the robot’s arms. The operating modes - excavation and grip - can be selected by changing the hand’s shape.

It is also possible to change the hand depending on the shape of objects that it needs to interact with while also allowing for a wide range of grip strength.

This robot has the capability to allow a remote operator to precisely control it by sensing the level of force and touch that it is applying to debris as if they were actually touching the target object.

It is equipped with a multi-rotor unmanned aircraft vehicle UAV (a drone) which is powered through electric lines. This allows the operator to view objects and terrain from different viewpoints without a robot-mounted camera and gives it a bird’s-eye view which makes precise tasks and movement over intricate terrain easy.

The researchers believe that these functions will dramatically increase construction equipment’s capacity to deal with large-scale disasters and accidents and say it could also replace conventional construction equipment used in civil engineering and construction projects.

The robot could be used in disaster-relief situations within a few years after further improvements are made and its performance limits are tested.

Last year, a team unveiled a miniature robot that can squeeze itself into tiny gaps like a cockroach in order to search for disaster victims trapped in unreachable areas. 

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