Brussels, 19 Nov 2003
Collaborators in an EU funded CRAFT project are about to build one of the world's largest robots, designed to prevent landslides without risking human lives.
ROBOCLIMBER has been developed by nine consortium partners in four European countries, and employs cutting edge satellite technology developed for European Space Agency (ESA) missions.
Current methods of landslide prevention often involve the construction of scaffolds in unstable areas, a labour intensive and dangerous affair. As Giorgio Pezzuto, from Italian project partner D'Appolonia, explains: 'In 2001 we initiated a project to evaluate how innovative technologies could simplify this work and reduce human risks. The objective was to develop a robotic system to do the job.'
Resembling a 3,000 kilogram spider with four legs, ROBOCLIMBER is designed to work on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. It can be positioned using remote control, and is able to drill holes and insert 20 metre long stabilising rods into a potentially risky slope, 'a conventional and well recognised method of slope consolidation' according to Mr Pezzuto.
Furthermore, with the use of stability analysis software, the robot is able to monitor slope conditions, and provide warnings and corrective suggestions to operators in real time.
It is hoped that accidents related to performing such complex work in dangerous environments will be avoided, as the automated intervention of ROBOCLIMBER will allow people to work at a safe distance.
There are other advantages too, according to Mr Pezzuto: 'The cost of slope consolidation can be reduced by up to 30 per cent for large interventions, and in situations where only monitoring and small interventions are needed, cost savings could be as high as 80 per cent.'
The various components that make up ROBOCLIMBER are currently in production, and field testing of the finished robot is scheduled to take place in Italy next spring. If all goes well, ROBOCLIMBER could be helping to save lives on unstable slopes before the end of 2004.