A group of researchers in Japan has developed a prototype for construction robots that can be used for disaster relief.

Using a prototype machine, researchers from Osaka University, Kobe University, Tohoku University, The University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of Technology performed verification tests on places that represented disaster sites, and they were able to confirm "a certain level of performance."

The prototype looks like an ordinary hydraulic excavator, but researchers said it is able to quickly and stably control heavy power machines with high inertia by achieving target values regarding location and speed through fine tuning and by controlling pressures on a cylinder at high speeds.

The machine can also estimate external load of multiple degree of freedom (DOF) hydraulically-driven robot from oil pressure of each hydraulic cylinder. The estimated force will be used for force control or force feedback to the operator of tele-operated rescue robots. Additionally, the prototype can measure high frequency vibration by a force sensor installed at the forearm of the robot and giving the operator vibrotactile feedback.

It can also fly a multi-rotor drone to the place of the operator’s choice and obtaining image information. Long flights and pin-point landing of the drone are available due to power supply through electric lines and a power-feeding helipad for tethering the drone. The machine can also present the operator images of an overhead view from an arbitrary place by using four fish-eye cameras mounted on the robot in real time so that the operator can assess the area surrounding the robot, and can also use a far-infrared ray camera capable of viewing with long-wavelength light so that the operator can operate the robot while assessing the situation even under bad weather conditions like fog.

The researchers are also developing new robots with a double rotation mechanism and double arms with the purpose of achieving higher operability and terrain adaptability.