Robotic Snake Inspects Nuclear Plant

A robotic snake developed at Carnegie Mellon university has been used to inspect the Zentendorf nuclear power plant. Its snakelike characteristics were tested to the max by a thorough inspection of the nuclear plant's steam pipes and connecting vessels.


The robotic snake proved it was able to maneuver through multiple bends, slip through open valves and negotiate vessels with multiple openings...

"Our robot can go places people can't, particularly in areas of power plants that are radioactively contaminated," said Howie Choset , a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon. "It can go up and around multiple bends, something you can't do with a conventional borescope, a flexible tube that can only be pushed through a pipe like a wet noodle."

The robot, which also has been tested in search-and-rescue environments, is made up of 16 modules, each with two half-joints that connect with corresponding half-joints on adjoining modules. It also has 16 degrees of freedom, enabling it to assume a number of configurations and to move using a variety of gaits.

The robot has a video camera and LED light attached to its head, giving its controllers an image of what it's approaching. The university explained that even though the robotic snake is twisting, turning and rotating as it moves through pipes and over obstacles, the image remains steady because it's automatically corrected to be aligned with gravity.

Science fiction fans may recall the robot snake spy from Greg Bear's 2009 novel Mariposa:

The coil on the table appeared to be a snake - tan and brown with black specks and a spade-shaped head. It did not look alive and it did not look dead. ...He reached down and partially uncoiled the snake, then squeezed its middle. A small hatch popped open, giving a glimpse of gleaming steel ribs and wires.

Earlier snake-like sf robots include the mining worm robot from Love Among the Robots (1946) by Emmett McDowell and the mechanical cobra from Lord of Light (1967) by Roger Zelazny.

However, given the duct inspection duties of Carnegie Mellon's robotic snake, I'm wondering if readers aren't thinking about the Sentinel duct inspector robots in the Matrix movies.

(Duct-diving robot Sentinels from The Matrix)

Via Computerworld.

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