Robots continue to assist in Japan after the recent tragedy. The latest is a 5 ton rescue robot that was built after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The Enryu robot has two arms that can lift over 200 lbs. and can be controlled by a nearby cab or portable control panel. Tmsuk President Yoichi Takamoto said he believed it can help remove the rubble from around the crippled plant.
Although nuclear power plant builders Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi believed that robotics should have been developed back then for just such a disaster, the funds were never enough to keep that project going and the prototype ended up only as a display at the Sendai Science Museum. Even now, they are not sure what type of effect radiation will have on the bot's ability and are testing it to see if lead needs to be added as a shield.
The Swiss based company ABB recently introduced a prototype FRIDA (Friendly Robot for Industrial Dual-arm Assembly.) The service bot is meant to be used in small assembly tasks and has a torso and arms much like their live counterparts. The video, undoubtedly meant to be a selling tool for the company, shows it not injuring a human arm and displaying "her unique agility which ensures high productivity."
ABB's site bills FRIDA as a "harmless robotic coworker," undoubtedly to belay fears of the eventual industrial takeover by robots.
When we contacted the good folks at QinetiQ last week regarding their sending robots to Japan to help out during their crisis, they quickly answered us in response. They told us that they sent a TALON responder robot for working in radiation, a Dragon Runner for small space work and Bobcat loaders to move heavy debris and aid in reconstruction. If you would like to keep up with their efforts, follow them on Facebook or on Twitter.
Check out the video showing the iRobot Packbots opening the door and entering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. It found that the radioactivity level is still too high for humans. Enter MA based QinetiQ, whose V.P. says they have sent 6 mobile robots that will help clear some of the wreckage. After that, a human is needed to restore the cooling system. We bet with all the technology out there, there's a bot for that.
The third annual Barbot took place April 1 - 2 in San Francisco, CA. The celebration included iLush2, the weightless Cosmobot 2.0 and the White Russian Hippie Maker. Partially tongue in cheek, it would seem all participants had a good time and doubtless there were some taxi bots to take them home after the festivities.
We finally know that one of the iRobot Packbots was sent into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to measure the amount of radiation and oxygen levels in the building. This is a first time foray into the fray that is also set to check temperature, although the company sent the bots several weeks ago. A rep from Tepco claims that it will find if the conditions are safe for a human to enter.
Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic about 2 years ago and recently aquatic robots found some bodies from that crash. The flight occurred May 31, 2009 and so far 177 are still missing. This is the fourth time that the team of REMUS 6000 robots, which can go down 6,000 feet and stay underwater for 20 hours at a time, has gone down to inspect the plane remains. Officials say that the bodies will be brought to the surface within a month.
Germany has offered Japan robotic assistance and its nuclear expertise. The Kerntechnische Hilfsdienst specializes in damage control in their nuclear power plants. Although they have not accepted the offer, the KHG can provide robots that can go into radioactive area and be operated from secure locations.
This is now the third country we have found that has promised to help the country and, although they seem to want the assistance, we don't see evidence of a lot of activity, at least in the robotics department.
France's Areva has sent five radiation experts to Japan after a request from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Apparently they accepted the consultation but not the robots as yet as they are still reportedly on standby at France's at Chateauroux Airport. The pic above shows a peek at some of the country's equipment.
Dr. Peter Lyons, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy with the DOE, told a Senate panel Tuesday that the US is sending some radiation-hardened robots to Japan to assist inside their at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants. The bots can measure radiation and send images with cameras to their operators. Also being sent are trainers to instruct the workers in their operation.
iRobot informed us that they sent four robots (2 iRobot 510 PackBots and 2 iRobot 710 Warriors) to Japan early last week and they arrived about March 22. Six iRobot employees also made the trip to train Japanese authorities on how to use the robots. They had no information about specific projects, though.
Public Relations Specialist Charlie Vaida told Robot Snob, "Both the PackBot and Warrior give the operator situational awareness in dangerous environments. They are outfitted with a variety of cameras and sensors, and any information it captures is relayed back to the operator who can remain at a safe standoff distance."
This also makes us wonder if Japan actually employed its own Monirobo as we reported earlier, as it seems a lot of the information coming out of the country regarding the state of its plants seems to be erroneous.
How sad that a country that is tops in robotics seems to be lacking in that area and instead concentrates on consumer usage, like those that are hyped on the site of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization.)
Stay tuned. We also contacted JETRO but have received no response as yet.