IIoT-equipped mobile robot exhibits snake-like dexterity

Robotic integration technology update: Robots-as-a-service are seen as suitable for inspection, surveillance, and non-destructive testing.

By Kevin Parker August 13, 2017

Most robots are ability-specific. They do something-repeatedly-and they do it well. A mobile IIoT robot, on the other hand, is more of a generalist. It can be compared profitably to an unmanned automated vehicle (UAV) or even thought of as a kind of terrestrial drone. What makes it especially intriguing, in the instance here under discussion, is that the robot’s form factor resembles that of a snake.

Snake-like robots: "Have been around for about a decade and were initially used for search-and-rescue operations in challenging terrains, which might include where slurry conditions prevail or in dealing with mine cave-ins," said Ben Wolff, Sarcos Robotics chairman and CEO.

Available in August, Sarcos Robotics recently announced its Guardian S robotic mobile internet-of-things (IoT) platform, the essence of which is a dexterous, tele-operated robot for use in unpredictable and unstructured environments. A base unit costs $60,000 or can be contracted for as a service for $2,000 a month, said Wolff.

Sarcos Robotics investors include Microsoft, GE Ventures, Caterpillar, and Schlumberger.

The company says the Guardian S is the first of its kind, representing a new class of robotic solution, and that it delivers extended run times and long-range wireless operations, while remaining portable and cost-effective.

The robot integrates with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, and leverages Windows 10 for the tablet controller. The cloud-computing platform enables customers to collect, store, and analyze sensor data in challenging environments or for applications where it is not feasible to deploy fixed sensors.

"Drones and UAVs do an incredible job collecting useful data about wide-open environments, but we see an opportunity for collecting data in confined or enclosed spaces, or circumstances that require hours, not minutes, of data collection, or where data can only be collected by placing sensors near, or in contact with, a surface," said Wolff.

The unit is a multi-purpose, wirelessly controlled, unmanned ground vehicle that acts as a mobile IoT platform to carry multiple sensor payloads, he added.

Weighing 13.5 pounds, the robot tele-operates and reliably traverses challenging terrain including stairs, culverts, pipes, tanks, vertical ferromagnetic surfaces and confined spaces, while facilitating two-way real-time video, voice, and data communication. Other key specifications and capabilities include:

  • The ability to carry a 10-pound payload while traversing a horizontal surface
  • Access to confined spaces with openings that are 5 inches high or more
  • IP67 certification makes it waterproof and capable of decontamination after exposure to chemicals or other hazardous elements
  • Superior mission life as compared to other UGV platforms: 18+ hours of surveillance time and a 4-mile travel range
  • Wireless and wired broadband communication options available: from wireless (Wi-Fi, LTE, and proprietary radio) to tethered options
  • Multiple, customizable sensor packages carried or installed, including IR, chem-bio, radiation, gas, vibration, GPS, accelerometer, 3D mapping, and 360-degree video with low light capabilities
  • Secure storage and retrieval of environmental video, audio, and sensor data, in addition to information on the health and operation of the robot.

The combination of IoT sensors and Azure services has proven to be highly valuable for evaluating the performance of, and predicting required maintenance for, the various industrial machines in which they are placed. The Guardian S mobile IoT platform advanced the utility of the cloud by leveraging Azure cloud computing functionality and analytics to collect and analyze data about the environment surrounding the robot. Optimized for unstructured and unpredictable environments, the Guardian S can provide real-time information and data to human operators while keeping them out of harm’s way. It goes where other robots can’t, and humans shouldn’t.

Kevin Parker is contributing content manager for Oil & Gas Engineering and IIoT for Engineers, CFE Media, kparker@cfemedia.com.


Key concepts

  • Robotics and drones can go where humans cannot.
  • Advanced sensing, payload, wireless, and cloud capabilities help mobile robots.
  • Robot diagnostics improve performance.

Consider this

What dangerous locations in your facility could be helped by advanced robotics or drone technologies?

ONLINE extra

For more information, visit https://www.sarcos.com/.

See the Control Engineering robotics page

See Oil & Gas Engineering

See the Control Engineering IIoT page.

Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.

Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media