Robot Fire Snake to the Rescue

(Image courtesy of SINTEF)

Aug 21, 2006 | Post Archive

This snake has nothing to do with real snakes or their presence on planes. It does, however, have everything to do with rescue work. Since Mother Earth has unrelentingly punished her tenants with tsunamis and earthquakes in recent months -- not to mention the work due to terrorist activity, warfare and everyday fires -- developments in rescue technology are welcome, to say the least.

SINTEF, makers of the snake robot "Anna Konda," have lofty ambitions for their creation. They describe the snake as an intelligent robot that uses hydraulic pressure and coordinated joint movements to "slither" into scenarios too hostile for human rescue workers. For durability, the snake (currently being developed in stages) comprises robotic joint modules with two valves and two hydraulic motors each encased in steel. Among Anna Konda's projected uses are climbing stairs, pushing its way through collapsed buildings and putting out tunnel fires with its built-in water device.

Anna Konda isn't completely autonomous. Aase Dragland, a SINTEF employee, reports that the engineers have installed a camera, which allows its operator to control the snake much like a remote-controlled car. The operator tells the snake where to go, but the snake itself decides how to get there through snake-like behavior. One SINTEF employee explained that the snake "knows how to cross a pile of materials, climb down on the back side and twist itself round the objects in order to get footing."

In addition to putting out fires and operating in post-earthquake environments, Dragland says the snake has other applications. He says that the snake could assist in “underwater operations in connection with maintenance of oil installations on the sea floor...and potentially explosive situations.”

A commercial version of the snake has yet to be developed, but with enough funding it could be on its way. Link

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