Researchers from KAIST have created a new underground drilling robot inspired by moles. The new drilling robot could be useful for space exploration and mining for underground resources.

KAIST developed biomimetic robot, "Mole-bot." Source: KAISTKAIST developed biomimetic robot, "Mole-bot." Source: KAIST

The new robot is called Mole-bot. It has a stout scapula, the waist is inclinable on all sides and powerful forelimbs. The powerful torque comes from the expandable drilling bit that mimics the chiseling ability of a mole’s front teeth. The elongated waist changes direction 360 degrees. The mole is 25 cm wide, 84 cm long and weighs 26 kg.

Inspiration for the new robot came from the African mole-rat and the European mole. The African mole has powerful teeth and can dig a hole with 48 times more power than its body weight. The embedded muscle feature that converts linear motion into rotational force was inspired by the European mole’s scapula.

To develop the new robot the team created new sensor systems and algorithms to identify the robot’s position and orientation with a graph-based on 3D simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology. SLAM matches the Earth’s magnetic field sequence which enabled 3D autonomous navigation underground. Thanks to this technology the mole mitigates environmental destruction.

With the new mole, researchers save money on cost and labor. It doesn’t require additional pipelines or other ancillary equipment.