Over the years Carnegie Mellon University has improved its famous snake bot so that it can climb sand dunes and grab objects, for example. With the latest version, you can now add swimming to that list.
Work on the hardened modular underwater robot snake (HUMRS) began in July 2020. The university’s robotics laboratory began modifying waterproof modules that had previously been used to operate the robot under less than ideal conditions. Then they added a number of turbines and thrusters to allow the robot to move underwater. Work on the project proceeded rapidly, and in March of last year the HUMRS swam for the first time in a CMU pool.
The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute – not to be confused with any specific other ARM – helped fund this latest version of the robot snake. The robotics laboratory assumes that organizations like the US Navy will use it to inspect ships and submarines when they are not in port. Currently, warship crews have few options if their ship is damaged. You will have to wait for a dive team to come to their location or return to the dry dock. In any case, it costs time and money.
“If they can get this information before the ship goes to a homeport or dry dock, it saves weeks or months of time on a maintenance plan,” said Matt Fischer, one of the researchers who worked on the project. “And that in turn saves money.”
The HUMRS’s small size and flexibility also means it can navigate areas like pipelines where a more traditional remote submarine would have problems. Outside of military use, it could also find work to inspect pipes, tanks and offshore drilling rigs.