As robots become cheaper to build and more resilient when navigating unpredictable terrain, companies are trying to sell them for more commercial applications like package delivery and inspections. Sarcos, for instance, recently unveiled a snake robot with a flexible design that makes it ideal for inspecting confined areas.
Also known as a multi-dimensional mobility robot (MDMR), the Guardian S is designed with a flexible midsection to climb stairs and pass through narrow pipes. Its imaging and sensing capabilities can be adjusted for military deployment as well as for law enforcement, disaster recovery, and mapping, among other applications.
The sensors on the snake robot can be swapped out for different applications, said Fraser Smith, president of Sarcos, in an interview with Electronic Design. For example, it can be equipped with stereo-vision cameras, ground-penetrating radar, and heart-rate sensors to detect people in a collapsed building.
The sensors can also be used for navigation: the Guardian S can be equipped with grippers, or “whiskers,” with embedded force and position sensors that provide situational awareness. The robot can be controlled remotely over several miles and supports two-way communications via a smartphone on its back.
Robots like the Guardian S are slowly filtering down from military applications. Police departments are using robots like the Robotex’s Avatar III Tactical Robot. Though the Guardian S was originally developed with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Sarcos plans to start leasing the robot to companies and government agencies on a monthly basis.
The Guardian S snake robot debuted at the 2015 National Tactical Officers Association Conference. It is scheduled to be commercially available later this year. Due to its military applications and trade restrictions, the robot will only be offered to companies and government organizations in the United States