Latest ANYmal walking robot gets ready for inspection
The ANYmal walking robot has been around for a few years now, and even got some wheels last year. Now Switzerland's ANYbotics has announced a new fully autonomous four-legged robot coupled with inspection analytics software for complete end-to-end inspection of energy and industrial processing plants.
The ANYmal D is being tasked with making its way around a facility and checking that equipment is running as it should, potentially saving human inspectors from having to work in hazardous environments or hard-to-reach nooks.
Where tracked or wheeled bots might find the tight spaces and steep stairs commonly found in such places something of a challenge, the walking robot can take them in its stride, while also tackling rugged terrain and avoiding obstacles.
It can also step over gaps in the floor, tackle slopes and move in all directions. And if it does take a tumble, a self-righting mechanism comes into play. All-weather operation is catered for by IP67-rated protection against dust and water ingress.
The combination of depth cameras, 360-degree LiDAR and wide angle color cameras allow the ANYmal D to make its way around a building or plant on its own, without a human operator, and its makers say that it should only need to be walked through its expected inspection route once, after which it will able to repeat the route as often as required while stopping to inspect machinery along the way.
The robot features a pan-tilt inspection unit on its back with sensors for visual, thermal and acoustic measurements. The 4K camera module has a 20x optical zoom that allows the robot to log a visual check without having to get up close, the thermal camera has a temperature range of -20 to 500 °C (-4 to 932 °F), a directional microphone can record acoustic measurements in the audible and ultrasonic frequency range, and there's a built-in computer to cater for continuous operation even when network connection is spotty. And should the robotic inspector need to venture into dark corners of the facility, there's a 3,500-lumens LED spotlight to brighten things up.
If an issue be detected during its rounds, the walking robot sends an alert to the control room over Wi-Fi, or optionally via a 4G/LTE module, for follow up by a human technician.
The ANYmal D is designed for day and night operation, and has a runtime of 90 minutes per charge. When its onboard batteries start to run low, the robot can return to a strategically placed docking station in the facility for a recharge.
ANYbotics says that it will take some of the setup strain out of the installation process by working closely with customers to identify tasks that can be undertaken by the bot, creating inspection simulations, engaging in on-site demonstrations, and employing pilot testing. The company will also provide training and support to facility staff.
With customers already onboard, the first installations are expected to be operational later this year. The video below shows the kind of thing the new bots are expected to get up to.