This new robot rat invention could one day save your life

A team of researchers from Beijing Institute of Technology (ILO) and Tsinghua University said they have developed a robot rat that they hope can be used in post-disaster rescue missions. In results published in the peer-reviewed journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics this month they revealed that the mechanical rodent can squeeze through tight spaces, climb slopes, cross obstacles and even walk on snow, adding that it could be used to carry medical supplies or food rations. emergency in places inaccessible to rescuers. -reaching incidents like people trapped under rubble after an earthquake.

According to South China Morning Postlead author Shi Qing, a professor and vice-director of the BIT’s intelligent robotics institute, said the team has been updating the prototype since 2019 and hopes to prepare the robot for market launch as early as 2025.

“The robotic rat can be dispatched to earthquake ruins or building collapse scenes where debris forms spaces too narrow for rescuers to enter. It can provide emergency rations to people stuck under the rubble,” Qing said. “It can also navigate complex underground pipeline networks, a key part of smart city development. A larger inspection robot can carry the robotic rat around the network, where it can be deployed to go into smaller pipes for detection tasks,” he continued.

By mimicking the movement of real rats, the robot can stand up from a squatting position or stay low to the ground, crawling in spaces with low ceiling heights. He can also turn effectively in narrow, curved passages and recover from falls by controlling his limbs and cervical spine to adjust his center of mass, allowing him to work in rough terrain, according to the newspaper.

To implement such ability and ease of movement into mechanical technology, the team used X-ray recordings to observe the rats’ skeletal structure and build the robot, which can be assembled with 3D printed parts in about one week.

The robot rat’s head and body are made of photoresist, while high-strength nylon forms its four limbs to ensure strength and rigidity. It also has a soft rubber tail that can move up and down to maintain balance as it moves.

Measuring 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) long and weighing 220 grams (7.8 ounces), the robot is powered by rechargeable solar batteries that can last 30 minutes and can be controlled remotely via wifi using a computer or a telephone.

According to Qing, it walks at an average speed of 15 centimeters per second and has a payload of 200 grams for installing sensors or carrying light cargo. The team added that it will continue to upgrade the robot, including improving its agility, installing more sensors for field testing in narrow unstructured pipelines, and waterproofing the machine body.