Four-Legged Robotic Dog Detects Hazardous Gases in Hard-to-Reach Areas

by Khushi Srivastava

A four-legged, dog-like automaton that can sniff out hazardous materials in locations where the risks are too high to make humans the first entrants has been unveiled. According to the latest issue of ACS Analytical Chemistry, scientists have developed a robotic dog for detection and could transform the way scientists and emergency workers sniff out toxic materials in abandoned buildings or fire-damaged spaces.

It is a very important but highly risky job wherein the lives of scientists and experts are put in danger by testing air for toxic substances. In the conventional methods, human elements are highly involved in collecting and analyzing the air samples, which puts them at high risk. BIN HU and his colleagues eliminate this danger by developing mobile detection systems to identify dangerous gases and VOCs etc., through remote-controlled sampling instruments like aerial drones and similar small vessels.

The newest addition to the suite of innovative technologies is a four-legged canine or dog-like robot, but with a motor-powered arm that can be used for collecting air. The robotic dog has an articulated arm mounted on its back; it has three needle trap devices, otherwise known as NTDs, attached and potentially able in any moment in its mission to collect an air sample that will enable this robot to collect very important data autonomously in hazardous environments.

To make practical demonstrations of their robotic “lab” under harsh, real-world conditions, the researchers deployed it in a number of inhospitable sites: inside a waste disposal plant, a sewer system, a gasoline fireground, and a chemical warehouse. “We chose these sites because they potentially harbor dangerous VOCs of all kinds,”. Despite rain and snow, the robot managed to travel over areas, collect air samples, and deliver them to a portable MS for analysis directly in the field; this was much quicker than the traditional sampling methods delivering them to off-site laboratories, thus with reduced risk of human exposure to dangerous environments.

The researchers say their robot-MS system is a “smart” and safer way of finding such hazardous materials. With a mass spectrometer integrated into the robotic dog, on-location analysis can be performed far more efficiently and precisely, with real-time data that can be critical when people find themselves involved in an incident, but acknowledged further refinements concerning operating conditions will be necessary.

Thanks to the Guangzhou Science and Technology Program and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, this groundbreaking project has been able to make this robotic detecting system stretch further to reality in the quest for the discovery of a much safer and efficient way of monitoring hazardous environments.

These developments consequentially have implications beyond the industrial floor. Its ability to work in hazardous environments could make this robot an important tool for disaster response teams, environmental monitoring agencies, and military applications. Where men and women are either barred or put in harm’s way, this robotic solution will be an integral part of safety and efficiency.

With such inventions as this robotic dog, technology is alarmingly going to make them indispensable in serving human beings and preserving environmental health. This work of Bin Hu and colleagues at the Bundeswehr University Munich is a great model of cutting-edge research ultimately giving way to practical solutions to some of the most important challenges facing society.

Reference Four-legged, dog-like robot ‘sniffs’ hazardous gases in inaccessible environments

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