Tech News: This latest snakebot from Carnegie Mellon can swim underwater.
Over the years, Carnegie Mellon University has updated its popular snakebot so it can do things like climb sand dunes and grab objects. With its latest version, you can now add swimming to that list.
Work on the Hardened Underwater Modular Robot Snake (HUMRS) began in July 2020. The university’s robotics lab began by modifying the water-resistant modules it had used in the past to operate the robot in less than ideal conditions. Then they added a series of turbines and thrusters so that the robot could propel itself underwater. Work on the project proceeded quickly and last March HUMRS swam for the first time in a CMU pool.
The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute – not to be confused with another ARM – helped fund this latest version of the robotic snake. The robotics lab predicts that organizations such as the US Navy will use it to inspect ships and submarines while not in port. Currently, warship crews have few options when their ship is damaged. They have to wait for a dive team to arrive at their position or return to dry dock. Either way, this takes time and money.
“If they can get this information before the ship reaches a port or dry dock, they save weeks or months of time on a maintenance schedule,” said Matt Fischer, one of the researchers who worked on the project. “And that, in turn, saves money.”
The small size and flexibility of the HUMRS also mean it can navigate areas such as pipelines, where a more traditional remote submarine would struggle. Outside of military use, he may also find work to inspect offshore pipes, tanks and platforms.