Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) has upgraded its famous Snakebot called HUMRS, allowing it to swim underwater along with other ability to do things like climb sand dunes and grasp objects. With this new swimming ability Snakebot can now inspect ships, submarines and infrastructure for damage underwater.
A team led by Choset and Matt Travers, from the Biorobotics Lab in the School of Computer Science’s Robotics Institute, has been working on this Snakebot named as Hardened Underwater Modular Robot Snake (HUMRS) from July 2020. According to the university’s robotics lab, The modular design of the HUMRS allows it to “complete different tasks, like squeezing through tight spaces under rubble, climbing up a tree or slithering around a corner underwater.”
And for the underwater ability the team used existing water resistant modules to allow the robot to operate in less ideal conditions. Then further adding some new modules like turbines and thrustes to move it underwater. Development on the robot progressed rapidly with CMU had it swimming in its pool by March 2021, “showing off its precise and smooth swimming, and demonstrating its ease of control.”
The latest version of this Snakebot was developed with the help of funding from The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute (not the other ARM). According to Matt Fischer, the program manager at the ARM Institute working on the project, HUMRS aims to assist the US Navy with inspecting the damage of the ships, submarines and other underwater infrastructures.
As to deal with damage or to inspect areas like a ship’s hull, Navy have few options like to send a team of divers or to wait until it returns to port to deploy the divers, something that costs time and money. But with this Snakebot, Navy can do that easily and immediately.
“If they can get that information before the ship comes into a home port or a dry dock, that saves weeks or months of time in a maintenance schedule,” said Fischer, who served in the Navy for three years. “And in turn, that saves money.”
Due to its small size and flexibility of HUMRS can inspect any fluid-filled systems. And outside of military use, “it could inspect underwater pipes for damage or blockages, offshore oil rigs, or tank while it is filled with liquid.”