On March 2011, a tsunami and earthquake struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi energy plant in Japan, causing a major disaster. Newspapers and television networks showed images of collapsed buildings, tunnels flooded with water and areas subjected to the radiation. As these scenarios place emergency services personnel at great risk using robots could help contain damage and minimize injury or death.
In the last five years, emergency services have deployed several robots in Fukushima to inspect the area and collect data. Some robot surveys were successful while others failed, underlining the pressing need to advance state-of-the-art robotic systems for disaster response.
Royal Caribbean cruise ships made headlines earlier this year as the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, pulled into port in Southampton. After 32 months in construction the ship was finally complete, measuring almost four football fields in length, and built from over half a million individual components.
In addition to the list of superlatives that accompany the record-breaking ship, Royal Caribbean’s floating city also plays home to the tallest slide at sea, spacious state rooms complete with virtual balconies showing real-time views of the ship’s destination, and a bar served entirely by robots.
Fabrics containing flexible electronics are appearing in many novel products, such as clothes with in-built screens and solar panels. More impressively, these fabrics can act as electronic skins that can sense their surroundings and could have applications in robotics and prosthetic medicine. Researchers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia have now developed smart threads that detect the strength and location of pressures exerted on them1.
It’s been said we know more about the surface of the moon than the world’s oceans, but that could soon change with the advance of robots known as marine autonomous systems (MAS). Loaded with sensors and cameras, these aquatic robots can capture data from the world’s oceans faster, safer and cheaper than ever before.
Marine autonomous systems help BP freely explore its remote offshore operating environments. These vehicles can transmit extraordinary amounts of data in near real-time, so scientists can accurately monitor the oceanic environment, assess risks, or effectively manage a crisis.
Launching the V&A’s Engineering Season, the Elytra Filament Pavilion opened to the public last month. The canopy, stretching across the furthest corner of the courtyard, will continue to grow throughout the season, being fed by a Kuka robot nestled at its heart.
The passage and presence of visitors in and around the pavilion will be detected by sensors in the canopy fibres, and will ultimately affect how, and where, the structure grows. As such, over the course of the summer, the structure will be allowed to adapt and evolve in response to the use of the courtyard below it.
The construction industry still involves putting one brick on top of another, one at a time, by hand. We rely on hand finishes and human effort. Yes, the tools have got bigger and more powerful, but underneath that the processes have not really changed for hundreds of years. If you look at nearly every other industry, the direct link between human effort and output has been broken. Technology has empowered workers, making them smarter and more productive.
Castrol’s lubricants are being used in one of the most demanding journeys any vehicle has ever made. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying the Curiosity rover from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 26 November 2011. It landed more than eight months later, on 6 August 2012, following a 563,000,000-kilometre (350,000,000-mile) voyage. It is the agency’s fourth robotic Mars rover since 1996.
Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Southampton have developed a bio-inspired prototype wing that takes its form and function from bats. The team behind the novel approach has suggested the wings could be used in the next generation of micro air vehicles (MAVs).
The popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has increased dramatically in the past decade, which much of the research devoted to maximizing the efficiency of the vehicles, extending their flying range, and decreasing their size. The smallest of these, micro air vehicles, may be as little as 15cm in diameter, with their diminutive size making them ideal for safely surveying remote, or even dangerous locations.