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- June 2010
- By Meenakshi Rohatgi
ROBOTIC ARM The most widely implemented application of robotics is the robotic arm. Used mainly in industries for carrying out repetitive tasks which involve a huge amount of industrial labor, now robotic arms are also being used in surveillance systems as bomb detonators.
The most widely implemented application of robotics is the robotic arm which is used in industries for carrying out repetitive tasks which involve a huge amount of industrial labor. While the normal degree of freedom (DOF) is 4, a startup, formed by a group of engineering students, NextSapiens has developed a robotics arm which has a DOF of 6. NextSapiens has also developed a spyball for defense surveillance purposes and an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The company also provides customized training programs with institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee, Birla Institute of Technology, Jharkhand in India and North South University and American International University in Bangladesh. They also manufacture training kits and hardware, such as the development boards, microcontrollers, sensors, motors, battery packs, basic robots, onto which other equipment can be added for designing working robots as per requirement. “We have been asked to set up special labs and provide training to infaculties in various colleges which shows the growing awareness and interest of the public in robotics,” explains Kumar Garvit, founder of NextSapiens. The company is in the final stage of designing a UAV which can be used for border surveillance and in naxalite operations. It is likely to be available within six months at a price range of Rs 2-5 lakhs.
Moving from simple task as cleaning to specialized tasks such as harvesting fruits and analyzing the soil, new robots are capable of making lives of several farmers and horticulturists hassle-free. India TR35 member, Prajwal Kumar, cofounder of Mangalore Robotronics Technologies has designed a robot which is capable of climbing tall trees such as arecanut and coconut. It is a wirelessly operated machine which has two pair of claws that are attached with rubber grips for gripping long tree trunks of any width. It has a mechanical arm with 4 degrees of freedom and a claw for cutting and plucking fruits from trees. The robot climbs trees using a vertical slide mechanism which is also used for un-mounting. The machine is powered by a simple air compressor unit and electric power supply. It takes 230 or 110 volts of alternate current power supply. A power converter steps down the voltage to 18 volts direct current. A video camera is mounted on one of the robotic arms to send visual information to the wireless controlling device. Signals are received by a micro controller unit which performs a desired task. After the fruits are cut, they can either be made to be dropped on the floor or be held by the robotic claw and be brought down as the robot is made to descend. The same robot can be used for spraying pesticides too.
The applications of Kumar’s robots also extend to defense activities. Kumar is ready with an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) which can be used in critical operations such as bomb diffusion, handling radioactive materials, surveillance, and rescue operations in war-like situations. This robot comes under the ambit of telerobotics or remotely operated vehicles.
“This UGV can save many precious lives if deployed in the army,” says Kumar. His machine is capable of six different operations. Using his wireless robot, live bombs can be displaced to a safer place and detonated; chemical and nuclear waste can be handled in a similar manner, reducing the need of human exposure to such dangerous substances; the robot can replace humans and counter attack in wars or terrorist attacks; it can also be used in rescue operations; and it can detect live buried land mines by using its metal detector. The robot can do firefighting if a water hose and other fire retardant materials are mounted onto it. Kumar’s robot also has application in border area surveillance since it is attached with panoramic and night vision cameras and is capable of being maneuvered in difficult terrain. All these operations can be performed without any kind of human intervention. The vehicle uses wireless telemetry for communication and control.
A similar multi-utility ground vehicle was deployed by the U.S. army in 2006. Prajwal Kumar had finalized the design in India in 2003, but due to lack of funds or support he could not take the project further. He says, “If developed in India, this would cost ten times lesser that what it costs in the U.S. But there is still a lack of trust in locally developed products no matter how useful, innovative, or critical they are, and hence lack of proper support to foster such innovations.”
Even Gridbots is working on a combat robot. Gaur says, “We call it [combat robot] the ‘ground zero’ since it will be useful in war zones. It can carry cameras, load up to 200 kilograms, and is made of steel. It measures two feet by two feet and is an all-terrain machine. We are also coming up with a small shoe-sized robot which can be placed inside hijacked hotels for transmission and monitoring of exact position of hidden terrorists inside the winding corridors and corners of such buildings.”
The shoe-sized robot is called Hummingbird. Gridbots has Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy as clients along with other companies such as NTPC and now is targeting Anti-Terrorist Squad and other defense forces.
Robosoft Systems is also developing a land surveillance robot for advanced scout and urban terrorism scenarios.