Honda’s Disaster Relief Robot May Be a Lifesaver of the future

When future disaster strikes, the helpful hand swooping your way may be more machine than man. Honda R&D researchers detailed their latest disaster relief prototype robot, the E2-DR, in a paper entitled, “Development of Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response in Plants.”

The robot stands a little over 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighs just over 187 pounds. Adding to its weight is a 1000-Wh lithium-ion battery with 90-minute operational stamina. E2-DR displays 33 degrees of freedom, and can rotate its body 180 degrees. Honda swapped out conventional communication cables for optical fiber alternatives, in an effort to keep size to a minimum.

Honda specifically designed E2-DR with a 25-cm (9.8-in) “thickness,” so it can fit through 30-cm (11.8-in) gaps. The reduced thickness is meant for factory navigation, since many have passages around that size.

Each hand has a series of cameras and 3D sensor tech. Moving up the design, the robot’s head also packs in a lot of gear, including an SR4000 time of flight camera, monocular camera with a synchronized LED flash, and Hokuyo laser rangefinders, to name a few.

“As for manipulation tasks, we assume that special tools with wireless communication designed for robots can be used,” according to Honda in its research paper. “Therefore the proposed robot does not need to have dexterous hands but only needs to have the ability to grasp the tools and structures in environments such as a crossbar of a ladder to move.”

According to Honda via IEEE, E2-DR has the follow special skills on its resume:

  • Bipedal walking at 4 km/h
  • Quadrupedal walking at 2.3 km/h
  • Stepping over a 200-mm pipe
  • Frontal transition between ladder and floor
  • Sideways transition between ladder and floor
  • Climbing up 200-mm stairs
  • Quadrupedal walking through an 800-mm walkway
  • Bipedal walking through a 500-mm walkway
  • Passing through an 800-mm door
  • Walking on piled debris
  • Walking under 26 mm/hour rain for 20 minutes
  • Climbing up and down a vertical ladder under 26 mm/h rain

To work in the disaster relief business, the ability to withstand harsh environments is a must. With this in mind, E2-DR can operate in conditions between 14 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 and 40 degrees Celsius), in addition to an outer shell that’s dust- and splash-proof.

Even with all these features, Honda’s robot is still very much in its early stages. To see its current progress, enjoy the video below.

Henry Sapiecha

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