Technology of Anti-Disaster Robotics (1)
Present Situation of Robotics
Hajime Asama, Professor, the University of Tokyo
Robots are mechanical system with versatile functionality such as mobility, manipulation, and measurement. Japan is one of the leading countries in robotics and many research and development of robots were carried out. Although there is no robot developed in world that is as versatile as humans, there are many robots and mechanical systems in Japan that can complete tasks as locomotion, transfer of objects, information acquisition, and manipulation under some defined condition autonomously or via remote control.
Robots are “machines” and thus have potential capabilities of performing tasks that is difficult, or impossible to be completed by humans. Locomotion, telemetry, surveillance, and object manipulation under high radiation and/or narrow environment are examples of such tasks. Removal of large debris under high radiation environment is another example of such tasks. In order to move around, observe, and perform tasks under extremely severe radiation conditions, we must consider application of robotics.
Robotics does not necessarily mean robot itself. Robotics is the system integration technology that realizes a mission under a defined condition with the knowledge on mechatronics, kinematics, control systems, and information processing systems. In other words, robotics shows a solution for a problem called a mission, with the knowledge and technology of mechanical engineering, electric engineering, and information science.
There is no existing robot that can move around for long time and perform versatile tasks under extremely high radiation and rough terrain, with numerous debris. However, there are many cases that existing robot can be applied by relaxing the requirement operation time or radiation condition. Even when the existing robot cannot be applied as it is, roboticists are often capable of deriving solution of combining available technologies to complete a mission, or make on-site modification to robots with short turn-around-time to give tentative solution that partially meet the mission requirements.