In particular, we are looking at enhancing the following performance measures:
- Versatility: To develop novel multi-modal mobility mechanisms for robots that can operate across a wide range of environmental conditions.
- Energy Efficiency: To Create smart robotic anchoring systems that can facilitate energy management in mobile robots.
- Safety & Durability: Tuning stiffness properties of robots to enabling (1) safer interaction with human and the environment, (2) make them more resilient to crushing forces, thereby more durable.
- Multi-Functionality: Modular design that enables quick switching between multiple functionalities whilst minimising the overall weight and size of the required hardware.
Mobile Robotic Manipulators present a dual advantage of dexterity offered by a robotic manipulator and an unlimited workspace using a mobile platform. The design of these systems is predominantly inspired by complex mobility and manipulation abilities in biological organisms such as in octopus arm and elephant trunk. However, unlike the biological counterparts, they are typically comprised of heavy and rigid components that can damage the surrounding environment and human workers, limiting their application.
The emergence of soft composite materials, flexible electronics and advanced manufacturing technologies can enable development of a new generation of “soft mobile manipulators” that can adapt to various terrains in unstructured built heritage to safely navigate around and access hard-to-reach locations at height or inside confined spaces to perform monitoring or repair work which is the focus of our research. For examples of our practice in this area check out our work on the Autonomous Repair Arm with the MIMRee project.
A sensory-physical system is the integration of a physical process with sensors and computation enabling monitoring or the control of the process. A robotic anchoring module is a sensory-physical mechanism for attachment to the environment.
Robotic anchoring modules with the ability of maintaining their attachment for an extended time duration would be invaluable for a wide range of industrial and medical applications: attachment in climbing robots for inspection and cleaning of huge glass walls, nuclear plants and steel bridges, perching in flying robots that can provide a bird-eye view of an area of interest or object manipulation and attachment into delicate substrates, e.g. human body.
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