Robotics, the future’s future

evolucionRobotica

Attending events like ROB4ALL, The European Robotics Week (Hisparob) or participating in competitions like MBZIRC and ARGOS Challenge is the ideal way of keeping up with the latest advances and anticipating the next steps in the robotics sector. These events pave the way for further progress in this sector, which first became known back in the “roaring” twenties. It was then that the term “robot” was coined, although there had already been pioneer developments that matched this new science pretty closely.

At this point certain questions are being raised about the short-term future. Where are the innovations and research in this sector headed? New roles and applications are cropping up; manipulators have been hogging the headlines for some years now; the “cobot” (co-robot, collaborative robot) concept has burst upon the working world and it is no longer a rare sight to see a person working shoulder to shoulder with a robot.

The overall aim here is for robots to take on human tasks, minimizing their exposure to risky work. There is still a lot of spadework to be done before we have truly mobile cobots that can work in difficult environments or under extreme conditions, such as the decommissioning of a nuclear plant, the repair of an underwater pipeline or the manipulation of a gas valve in a deep-sea oil rig under 100 kph gales.

To give an example, we at GMV, along with other organizations like IDMind and UPM-CAR, have been working on the design of a rover with enough autonomy to carry out industrial-plant monitoring and supervision duties. In 2014 this gave rise to the birth of the Flipper-based Oil & Gas ATEX Intelligent Robotics System, or FOXIRIS for short, a 35 cm-wide robot with central, front and rear flippers.

foxiris

This chain-based locomotion system enables the robot to climb up and down stairs and overcome obstacles, thanks to its system of articulated flippers. It can also withstand extreme conditions, including explosive atmospheres according to the ATEX standard, with an industrial degree of protection IP67 against adverse weather conditions. The robot also has a high level of working autonomy.

What is ATEX?

ATEX is the common name given by Spanish and European legislation to the control of explosive atmospheres. An explosive atmosphere is any mixture with air, under atmospheric conditions, of flammable substances in the form of gases, vapors, mist or dust. Due to the sheer hazardousness of such atmospheres they are ruled by 3 Spanish risk-prevention pieces of legislation, namely Royal Decree 400/1996, Royal Decree 681/2003 and Law (Ley) 31/1995, and by two European directives (99/92/EC and 94/9/EC). The name ATEX comes from the French title of the 94/9/EC directive: Appareils destinés à être utilisés en ATmosphères EXplosibles.

The current design of the FOXIRIS robot, presented in the third ARGOS Challenge in March 2017, is ATEX-compliant. It is water resistant and is also a very flexible platform for visual inspection of industrial environments.

There is no doubt that robots by now represent a true revolution. We see and use them nowadays more than we might think and, with time they are bound to play an increasingly important part in our lives. The full potential of this science is unimaginable.

Author: Tatiana Teresa Pagola

Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV
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