Yes, it sounds like a much different robot from the Navy firefighter. GlennA has a good point about the Navy robot in that it has to carry a fire hose. As long as it's carrying the fire hose, a power cord is not an additional hindrance.
I guess in a confined space like onboard a ship the tether isn't such a big deal, compared to the BEAR which has to roam all over a messy post-disaster scene. But, as I noted, BEAR can lift and carry 500 lbs without a tether, so it must have some awesome hardware, including batteries.
Ann, I found the comment about the power cord. It was from GlennA:
Rob Spiegel; I agree that a tether could be a serious restriction. But if the battery pack is only good for 1/2 hour or so, and it only carried 25 to 50 lbs or so of fire extinguisher, it is really worth the cost to develop ? If this robot can drag a fire hose behind it, it should be able to drag a tether also. Someone is doing the cost justification between an autonomous unit vs. a tethered tele-operated unit. And they may decide to build both types for further evaluation, or for different applications. Or they may continue with a tethered unit (as it is now) until the battery pack version is viable.
Rob, the problem I'm having with that explanation is that the Army's BEAR is autonomous and can lift 500 lbs and, I believe, go a lot farther than a shipboard robot. So why can't the Navy's 'bot work by remote control?
That makes sense, Ann. On the Navy robot, there was a comment about the wire. It had to do with the distance the robot could travel (and the obstacles it would move through) while still receiving power. The person who commented suggested that even with the power cord, the robot would have greater ability to move than with a wireless system.
I wasn't visualizing the robot walking in the real world just yet, since this is still very much an R&D project. But remote control makes a lot of sense. Most mobile robots are either remote controlled or autonomous, so no wires either way. I was surprised the firefighting ship robot had wires, but maybe that had to do with its size. Maybe the Navy should talk to the Arm or DARPA, which have both solved the wires problem already.
What I'm thinking, Ann, is that out in the real world, you would want to avoid the all of the wires connected to this device. I would think wireless connectivity could free up the device for greater flexibility. I know that can be an issue, as with the fire fighting robot on the ship, where you needed the power tether even though the wire could inhibit movement.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
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