A Robotic Snake Saves Lives – How KNF Helps To Develop a Search and Rescue Robot
At ETH Zurich, a team of eight young engineers have developed a soft search and rescue robot that helps to locate people that are buried under debris. The new snake-like robot called RoBoa has been designed with the help of KNF diaphragm pumps and the supporting knowhow of KNF experts.
A search and rescue robot for difficult environments
When earthquakes or other catastrophes hit cities, the quick and safe finding of survivors is a matter of life and death. Disaster relief teams need to find injured persons to treat them, and people buried alive need to be freed before they run out of water and food. The search must be carried out very carefully as vibrations might cause the debris to move again and cause harm to victims or rescue workers. Therefore, rescuers increasingly rely on cutting-edge search and rescue robotics.
At renowned Swiss university ETH Zurich, young researchers of the Autonomous Systems Lab develop innovations that will help to save lives one day. One of these systems is RoBoa, a new type of search and rescue robot that has been developed in collaboration with KNF.
Using robotic pneumatics to create a new robotic design
RoBoa is a soft robot. It uses flexible parts to generate motions and fulfill tasks that would not be possible using conventional stiff components. In this specific case, the robot looks like a snake. Consisting of a long and twisted textile tube and a head that carries pneumatic steering actuators, the robot’s movements also appear quite snake-like. But unlike snakes, RoBoa moves with very little friction as its forward movement is achieved by everting the tube outwards – the so-called vine-robot principle. The mission is critical since even small vibrations might cause the surrounding instable debris to move.
In addition, the head is equipped with cameras, lights, speakers, microphones and various sensors. Thanks to its unique design, the tube with a diameter of 10 centimeters can penetrate the rubble to nearly any depth without a strong impact on the environment. This way, rescuers can examine the surroundings and search for survivors without putting themselves or others in danger.
Learn more about the technical concept of RoBoa in this YouTube video.
Pumps and expertise for the development of a search and rescue robot
KNF provided pro bono support to the students with their research when they first contacted the pump specialist company. For the research, KNF provided the necessary pumps to support the students in quickly testing new ideas, but also extensive expertise in the field of compressed air and pneumatics. KNF proposed solutions for the design process of RoBoa’s pneumatic actuators. Even though the final prototype is connected to a large compressor, KNF pumps helped the students to assess the search and rescue robot’s behavior and the function of its actuators.
Three pumps were then used in an associated bachelor thesis of two team members – one pump served as a vacuum pump to drain the actuators more rapidly if needed and the other two pumps served as a compressor. With KNF’s help, a water supply line is planned for RoBoa that can supply victims with water until being rescued.
KNF – Your reliable partner in pump technology
Are you planning a research project that involves pumps, compressed air, vacuum or fluid transportation? Please get in touch with our KNF experts! We are happy to support your research with our state-of-the-art pump technology and our extensive expertise in this field.