Skip to main content

Robots demolish a site deemed too hazardous for workers

demolition robot powerstation mg 0263
Robots demolished a power station in the U.K. this week, but don’t worry, it wasn’t Skynet becoming self aware. The whole thing was planned, by humans.

While robots aren’t usually relied upon for demolition work, in this case the site had been deemed too hazardous for humans after four workers were tragically killed when one of the buildings partially collapsed. In the aftermath, a 160-foot exclusion zone was set up, with no people allowed to enter the site.

As a result, a plan was put in place to use robots for the task — ranging from a smaller robot weighing in the region of 88 pounds to super-heavy machines weighing 4 tons. For the first part of the work, two robots made by the Irish company Reamda, referred to as the Robot Reacher and R-Evolve, surveyed the site. This involved taking photos and video, as well as utilizing a 3D laser scanner to study the six support columns of the building intended for demolition.

The gathered data was then passed onto another company, which built replicas of the columns so that the initiative could be tested before going ahead. Once all parties involved were satisfied, remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) belonging to Reamda and a Swedish demolition company called Brokk were sent in to place the explosive charges using robotic manipulator arms.

The demolition was successfully completed without incident.

“As technology continues to evolve it makes sense that we’ll hand more and more of these dangerous tasks over to machine,” Padraig O’Connor, managing director of Reamda, told Digital Trends. “It’s the same as bomb disposal and the way that we used to send in officers wearing protective suits: Today that’s considered a last resort.

“But this isn’t going to be about replacing humans with robots,” he continued. “You’ll still be benefitting from human experts’ skill and knowledge of these sites; it’s just that we’ll be able to send machines in to do the dangerous part of the job. We’re not doing anyone out of work, it’s just about putting people in a different seat.”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Online supermarket Ocado’s humanoid robot is the factory worker of the future
ocado armar 6 robot secondhands 3

United Kingdom online supermarket Ocado wants to establish itself as one of the most tech-savvy ecommerce companies around -- and it’s got the (prototype) robot to prove it. Called ARMAR-6, the humanoid bot is being developed as part of the European Commission's SecondHands project. It is now being put through its paces by Ocado’s innovation wing, Ocado Technology, with the goal of one day working alongside humans in its warehouses.

“The SecondHands project aims to create a robot that provides help to our warehouse technicians in a proactive manner,” Alex Voica, head of Technology PR and Communications for Ocado, told Digital Trends. “Our warehouses include state-of-the-art automation and robotics systems, and our technicians and operations engineers are tasked with ensuring that they function 24/7, 365 days a year. The ultimate goal is for the robot to use machine learning and computer vision to scan its surrounding environment and identify tasks it could help with. So, for example, if it observes a technician attempting to change a panel and requiring a set of tools, it will come and offer its assistance -- either by holding the panel for the engineer or grabbing the various tools that are needed.”

Read more
DHL's mail robot carries heavy loads and frees up the hands of delivery workers
dhl mail robot postbot delivery

Delivery giant DHL has invested a great deal of time and money in developing delivery drones, and over the last few years has run several trials targeting isolated communities on small islands and in mountainous regions.

Its latest autonomous effort involves not a flying machine but instead a ground-based robot by the name of PostBOT. If you're a mail delivery worker, the good news is that PostBOT isn't out to replace you, rather it wants to act as your buddy, accompanying you on your rounds, carrying all the mail, and, importantly, freeing up your hands so you can more easily deal with letters and packages on the move.

Read more
Cars have airbags, so why shouldn’t your robot co-worker?

Cars have airbags to protect us vulnerable humans from damage, so why shouldn’t robots offer similar protection? After all, as we work more closely than ever with robots in a growing number of areas, the chances of something going wrong increases. This is exactly the thinking behind a project at Germany's Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, where researchers have developed inflatable airbags designed to offer an extra level of protection for humans who might otherwise wind up the victim of a robot-induced injury.

“The main difference between airbags in cars and the Robotic Airbag is that a car airbag is triggered in case of an accident,” Roman Weitschat, one of the investigators behind the project, told Digital Trends. “That means the airbag is mainly hidden and designed for single use only. With the Robotic Airbag, we pursue a different strategy. We want the co-bot (read: collaborative robot) to be always intrinsically safe, so the airbag is always inflated when the robot is moving in order to allow for high velocities, without extra sensors required for detecting dynamic environmental conditions robustly.”

Read more