A walking and climbing robot able to operate in conditions hostile to humans has been developed by robotic specialist Portech, with the help of European Union funding.
The robot, known as Robug IV, could be used for inspection of nuclear plants, or for maintenance duties where climbing is required. Funded by the European Commission’s Esprit innovation programme, the design brief for the robot was to demonstrate the use of high performance computer systems.
The eight-legged machine is the latest in a line of robots designed for mobility in hazardous environments being developed by Portech in cooperation with Portsmouth University. Other organisations involved in the effort include shipbuilding companies, and practical trials are under way at Odense shipyard in Denmark.
The advantage of a robot with legs is that while only about a third of surfaces are accessible to tracked or wheeled vehicles, almost all can be crossed by legged ones.
Each Robug IV leg is operated by a microchip at each of four joints. The chips can be rapidly reprogrammed to ensure the legs’ movements are coordinated if the number has to be reduced, for example to access a restricted space, or if a leg is damaged.
Although eight legs is considered the optimal number for the spider-like device, and six is thought to be the minimum needed for reasonable movement, the Robug can crawl along on four legs if necessary.
The new robot will be on offer to the chemical, marine, off-shore, construction and nuclear industries.
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