A group of European companies and universities have collaborated to produce a series of multifunctional robots for urban hygiene tasks. With abilities ranging from door-to-door garbage pickup and transportation, to automated street cleaning, the DUSTBOTs recently demonstrated their skills at a station in the town of Atxuri, Portugal.

During the presentation the team demonstrated two models, the DustCart and the DustClean, for use in unmanned garbage pickup and transportation, and automated street cleaning respectively.

The DustCart is a humanoid robot 1.45 meters high and weighing 70 kg that has two wheels for feet, and is designed for door-to-door garbage pickup in very narrow town streets that traditional garbage trucks cannot access.

Registered users simply need to call an assistance number that will tell them what time the robot will be at their door to pick up the garbage. Once the machine has reached its destination, users can then interact through a touch screen to select the appropriate type of garbage and give it to the robot, which will transport it and deposit it at the nearest discharge point.

Traveling at 3.6 km/h, the DustCart has an autonomy of 16 km and can transport up to 80 liters or 30 kg of material, and is especially useful for those who have mobility problems. Its touch screen can also provide additional information ranging from local events to real time control of the air quality thanks to embedded nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide sensors.

Because of its human-like speed, versatile touch screen and friendly appearance, it wouldn't be hard to adapt the DustCart to a range of other tasks — such as, for instance, a robotic "shopping assistant" for the elderly that accompanies them to the desired shops and carries their heavy bags back home.

On the other hand, DustClean is a small vehicle 96 cm high and weighing 250 kg that's designed to clean streets from dirt, dust and garbage without human intervention — again, a handy solution for town streets that are too narrow for common city trucks. It can carry up to 20 kg of garbage and has an autonomy of 4 hours traveling at an average speed of 1 km/h.

Both robots incorporate a map of the surrounding environment which they can navigate safely, avoiding moving obstacles, thanks to a number of laser scanners and ultrasound sensors that detect them early and prompt the robot to figure out an alternative trajectory in real time.

Participants in the DUSTBOT project, which is coordinated by the prestigious Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (Italy) and co-funded by the European Commission, include Tecnalia (Spain), RoboTech srl (Italy), Midra (Italy), Synapsis (Italy), Örebro University (Sweden), HW Communication Ltd (United Kingdom), the Lucerne School of Engineering and Architecture (Switzerland) and the Haute Ecole d'ingénieur et de Gestion Vaud (Switzerland).