Advanced robots can spare human workers from dangerous or life-threatening conditions and environments - like the intricate underwater terrain of a search-and-rescue mission or extreme pressures faced by oil and gas workers. Robots aren't invincible, however, and they need to be carefully designed to handle these extreme conditions. Here are some of the extreme environments that robots face - and how designers test them
The Nuclear and Applied Robotics Group, based in the University of Texas at Austin, has a mission to "develop and deploy advanced robotics in hazardous environments to minimize risk for the human operator."
The ST Robotics Workspace Sentry robot and area safety system are based on a small module that sends an infrared beam across the workspace. If the user puts his hand (or any other object) in the workspace, the robot stops using programmable emergency deceleration. Each module has three beams at different angles and the distance a beam reaches is adjustable. Two or more modules can be daisy chained to watch a wider area. "A robot that is tuned to stop on impact may not be safe. Robots where the trip torque can be set at low thresholds are too slow for any practical industrial application. The best system is where the work area has proximity detectors so the robot stops before impact and that is the approach ST Robotics has taken," states President and CEO of ST Robotics David Sands.