Avatar robot safely cuts trees around active power lines


A robot avatar that mimics the movements of a human controller could replace workers in several hazardous jobs, such as tree pruning and construction, by the end of 2022.

The challenge: If a tree branch gets too close to a power line, it can cause power outages or, even worse, dangerous fires (as Californians know all too well). To avoid this, utility companies must regularly prune trees near their lines.

But it is dangerous work, as workers are tens of feet above the ground and use sharp power tools to cut trees while electrical life is still active – this puts them at risk of falls. , cuts and electrocution, all at the same time.

Through some estimates, tree pruning is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

“The robot goes and does the job for you in the dangerous or difficult environment.”

Ben wolff

Worker robot avatar: Sarcos Robotics believes its skillful Guardian XT robot should take on the human tasks of pruning trees and more.

He developed a system that turns the robot into an avatar for human workers. A VR headset allows them to see what the bot sees, and a portable device called SenSuit allows them to dictate the robot’s actions – regardless of the human’s movement, the robot replicates in real time.

In a recent demonstration, the Sarcos robot avatar was fitted with cutting equipment and lifted into a crane. A human then used the robot to cut trees near active power lines, while staying safe on the ground.

Versatile robot: Pruning trees is just one of the potential applications of the Guardian XT.

Sarcos also demonstrated how the robot avatar could be used to inspect pipes above ground in a chemical plant and to aid in the construction activities of an oil and gas company.

“The robot goes and does the job for you in the hazardous or difficult environment, at height or in a confined space,” CEO Ben Wolff told the TechFirst Podcast.

Looking forward: Sarcos hopes the feedback from these demonstrations will help it optimize the robot’s avatar in a way that enables future customers to “increase productivity while eliminating the need for employees to operate in hazardous environments,” Wolff. noted.

The company expects the Guardian XT to be market-ready before the end of 2022, but it has no plans to sell the robots. Instead, it will rent the machines to customers.

“By 2026, our goal is to have a fleet of more than 40,000 robots. “

Ben wolff

This should make the bots much more affordable than if companies were to buy them directly, which could increase the number of companies that can afford to give them a chance – and Sarcos is hoping the avatars will really take off.

“By 2026, our goal is to have a fleet of over 40,000 robots,” Wolff said. told Fierce Electronics.

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