A robot that has developed some mythology over the years now has a new trick. Snakebot, named year rescue robot in 2017 and help its creator to win the “Automation Oscars” in 2019, can now swim.

The robot consists of several activated joints that together produce different movements. Snakebots can stand slippery, roll, climb up to pull themselves over obstacles and climb on various objects and surfaces. CMU Professor of Robotics Howie Choset and Systems Scientist Matt Travers are the brains behind Snakebot. Creating them can drive themselves into enclosed spaces that dogs and humans cannot access.

“We can go to places that other robots can’t reach” Howie Choset, Professor of Computer Science Kavčić-Moura, said CMU’s Aaron Aupperlee. “It can surround a snake and squeeze into hard-to-reach underwater spaces.”

Snakebot helped find survivors of the ruins after the great earthquake in Mexico. Travers led the team to Mexico City in 2017 to use robotic snakes a search and rescue operation after the earthquake.

Swimming is a new trick, adding an impressive utility to a simple but surprisingly capable modular structure. Team Laboratory of Biorobotics at the College of Computer Science Institute of Robotics tested new Hardened underwater modular robot snake (HUMRS) recently at a university swimming pool by guiding a robot rim through an underwater obstacle course.

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The robot can have defense applications. It was developed ARM Institute assists the fleet in inspecting ships, submarines and underwater infrastructure for damage or as part of routine maintenance. Currently, divers do it or are delayed until ships reach the dry dock, both of which involve considerable infrastructure, time, and cost.

But a robotic snake that can squeeze into tight spaces can do much of the inspection remotely.

“If they get this information before the ship arrives at the home port or dry dock, it will save weeks or months on the maintenance schedule,” said Matt Fischer, program manager at the ARM Institute working on the project. served in the Navy for three years. “And this in turn saves money.”

Interestingly, Fischer was once tasked with crawling into the submarine’s ballast tanks during his service and borrowing a personal gain to equip the robot for the task.

Of course, military technology often shifts to commercial applications. Infrastructure inspections have been an important part of the development and deployment of robots, as they have found ready adopters among customers, such as in the oil and gas industry and power plants.

Outside the military, robots could inspect underwater pipes for damage or blockages, assess offshore oil rigs, or check the integrity of a tank when it is full of fluid. The robot can be used to inspect and maintain all fluid-filled systems, said Nior Shoemaker-Trejo, a mechanical and mechatronics engineer at Biorobotics Lab who works with the submersible snake mattress.

“I’m surprised we got this robot to run as fast as we did,” Choset said. “The secret is modularity and the people who work on this technology at CMU.”

Choset won the 2019 Engelberger Robotics Awards, the world’s most prestigious honor in robotics. At CMU, he has led teams that develop modular segmented robots, including a snake robot used in disaster relief.

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