This Humanoid Disaster Response Robot Is Designed to Save Lives

Honda has released the latest prototype of its disaster response robot. The bright orange robot can climb ladders and even survive getting wet.

This Humanoid Disaster Response Robot Is Designed to Save Lives
The new Honda disaster response robot E2-DR IEEE Spectrum/Youtube

Honda has created a new robot designed specifically for disaster response. The bright orange robot called E2-DR can walk, climb over objects, scale ladders and navigate narrow spaces. It stands at 1.68 meters tall and weighs 85 kilograms. The E2-DR is also designed to endure 20 minutes of pouring rain. Honda has been working on a humanoid recovery robot for some time.

This Humanoid Disaster Response Robot Is Designed to Save Lives
Source: IEEE Spectrum/Youtube

We saw their work in 2015 when Honda released a paper on the project in Germany. Honda has been impressively quiet on the subject since then and there has been no other sneak peek into what has been happening at the R&D department until now. The latest paper, titled, 'Development of Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response in Plants' gives all the details on the latest robot called E2-DR. E2-DR ticks off an impressive list of requirements outlined by the Japanese company as being crucial to a recovery robot. Honda says, “the following functional items should be achieved for inspection, maintenance and first response for disasters in social infrastructures, such as plants”:

-Three-dimensional movement such as stairs, stepladders and vertical ladders with minimum size cages including transitions between ladders and steps

-Moving in narrow free widths and narrow spaces 

-Moving over pipes on the floor

-Passing through closed doors along corridors

-Able to absorb contacts while moving 

-Moving upon scattered debris

-Perception of environment for planning and monitoring

-Prevention of catastrophic fall when robot loses power while moving in a high place such as stairs and ladders

In the video below you can see E2-DR show off its extended range of movements:

Disaster response robots need to be able to withstand extreme conditions and Honda have integrated a range of design features that let the robot survive dust, water and operate under extreme or changing temperature conditions. The first design feature is a labyrinth structure in the robot's joints that minimize the entry of contaminants. The robot is kept cool with an inbuilt cooling structure. Air ducts in the robot's torso get rid of the heat created by the processors which are an Intel Core-i7 CPU, a discrete GPU, and a DC-DC converter and cool the robot should it encounter rising temperatures when it is inside the building. The robot won’t explode when it experiences rain or moisture for up to twenty minutes of exposure.

E2-DR has simple grip like hands useful for climbing ladders but Honda has other plans for the way the robot will interact with its environment. They say, “As for manipulation tasks, we assume that special tools with wireless communication designed for robots can be used. 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 cross bar of a ladder to move"

This Humanoid Disaster Response Robot Is Designed to Save Lives
Source: IEEE Spectrum/Youtube

The E2-DR is a massive step forward in building a disaster response robot that can handle the unknown and possibly changing environments inside disaster areas. However, there is still a long way to go. The robot will need to become much more agile and have some method of ‘righting’ itself if it knocked over. We have a lot of faith that Honda is keeping its best secrets to last.

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