Robots designed for unclogging pipelinesMarie Donlon | November 30, 2022
A robot capable of clearing blockages in underground pipes has been developed by researchers from the University of Leeds in the U.K.
The so-called Joey robot can traverse narrow underground pipes, relaying damages or obstructions to human operators above ground.
To accomplish this, the 70 g Joey robot features simple motors, computers, navigation tools, a camera, microphones, sensors and spotlights to “see” pipe defects. Moving on 3D-printed wheels, the Joey robot uses sensors to measure the distances between walls, corners and junctions.
Recently, the Joey robot was trialed in an experimental pipe network made up of various left and right corners, a T-junction and three straight sections. The Joey demonstrated during these trials that it could explore, on average, 1 m of pipe network in just 45 seconds. Likewise, the researchers determined that the Joey robot could move up and down inclines within the pipe network and travel through sand and gel used to mimic the environment of real pipelines.
Going forward, Joey’s developers hope to correct a flaw in the robot that makes it impossible for the robot to right itself if turned over. The developers also expect that the small Joey robots will be carried by a larger “mother-like” robot called Kanga who can deploy the Joey robots in swarms.
An article detailing the Joey robot, Autonomous control for miniaturized mobile robots in unknown pipe networks, appears in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.