Aug 1, 2017 | By David

As robotics get more and more advanced, we’re seeing the technology employed in all kinds of interesting ways, often in some unexpected places. A new robotics project known as the BADGER (a somewhat awkward acronym for ‘roBot for Autonomous nDerGround trenchless opERations, mapping and navigation’) has been developed by the European Union. The robot is designed to be used on construction sites, to dig trenches and tunnels underground as well as to navigate the existing infrastructure. The technology involved is anything but boring, despite that being one of its main functions, and the BADGER is also capable of 3D printing walls as it moves around.

The BADGER project currently involves participation from seven different institutions, from five European countries. It is coordinated by Professor Carlos Balaguer, Santiago Martínez de la Casa, and Carme de Andrés Sanchis from the RoboticsLab at the University Carlos III of Madrid. The project started this January, and has been funded for €3.7 million over the next three years.

The BADGER will function by integrating a number of different state-of-the-art technologies, enabling more efficient construction projects, from trenchless constructions to cabling and pipe installations, geotechnical investigations, large-scale irrigation installations, search and rescue operations, remote science and exploration, and defence applications. The collaborative project also contributes as the general advancement of this kind of robotics technology.

Many construction sites already make use of large-scale drilling equipment for excavations and installation of pipes and cables, but it tends to be quite basic and limited in terms of navigation. Human input is required to keep the machinery on course, and it can generally only move in straight lines. A fully autonomous, programmable drilling machine with a huge range of possible motions would therefore be incredibly useful.

The design of the BADGER is modular, so various parts can be swapped in and out depending on what kind of task is required. The general idea is that the robot is programmed to burrow underground, which it does with a peristaltic, worm-like motion, to create horizontal and vertical tunnel networks for various construction purposes. It has a special drill head to pulverize rock in front of it, which is then sucked up and flushed out of the back of the robot. Lasers and other types of electronic navigation sensors are used to plot the course for the BADGER and keep it away from any obstacles.

The integration of 3D printing technology will allow the tunnels to be supported as they are formed by the burrowing BADGER. The 3D printer module will quickly build walls as the robot moves along, to keep the conduit open and accessible to other tools or equipment that might need to be deployed.

The robot will make use of innovative mechatronic concepts with robust industrial drilling tools, to yield advanced manoeuvrability and motion capability. It will also integrate perception, localisation and mapping techniques in order to sense, map and interpret the surrounding underground environment. The system’s software will merge collected underground data with legacy digital maps to plan and track the motion of the robot with respect to physical landmarks.

As for the robotic system actions and reactions, they will be governed by a specially designed cognition component, which makes decisions on task execution, path planning and motion planning. Finally, the robotic system will be capable to manage and intelligently combine the massive data gathered during underground operation so as to continuously improve its perception and cognition abilities whilst also providing human users the means to store, process and analyse this data. This will be particularly useful for improving time management and planning of tasks.

                                               

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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