Pipeline Explorer Untethered Robotic Snake

Pipeline Explorer, the first untethered robot used to inspect underground natural gas distribution pipelines was introduced by the NREC.


(Pipeline Explorer robotic)

The Pipeline Explorer is controlled via wireless link and uses only its on-board batteries for power. It is used to provide efficient inspections replacing tethered systems that push/pull the inspection device through no more than 200 feet of pipe at a time. For pipelines measuring miles in extent, the Pipeline Explorer provides a cost-effective alternative. Here are some robot details:

The robot’s architecture is symmetric. A seven-element articulated body design houses a mirror-image arrangement of locomotor/camera modules, battery carrying modules, and locomotor support modules, with a computing and electronics module in the middle. The robot’s computer and electronics are protected in purged and pressurized housings. Articulated joints connect each module to the next. The locomotor modules are connected to their neighbors with pitch-roll joints, while the others are connected via pitch-only joints. These specially designed joints allow orientation of the robot within the pipe, in any direction needed.

The locomotor module houses a mini fish-eye camera, along with its lens and lighting elements. The camera has a 190-degree field of view and provides high-resolution color images of the pipe’s interior. The locomotor module also houses dual drive actuators designed to allow for the deployment and retraction of three legs equipped with custom-molded driving wheels. The robot can sustain speeds of up to four inches per second. However, inspection speeds are typically lower than that in order for the operator to obtain an image that can be processed.
(From the Pipeline Explorer functional overview)


(Pipeline Explorer)

This must be the year of the snakebot. A few weeks ago, Anna Konda the robotic firehose burst on the scene. Also, don't miss the earlier Snakebot Roundup, with descriptions of five remarkable serpentine robots.

As far as I know, the earliest mention of a snakelike robot in science fiction is the 1985 digger worm.

Update In the Matrix movies, the Sentinels restlessly search the ductwork underlying the Matrix infrastructure, searching for unwanted elements skulking therein (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, et al).


(Duct-diving Sentinel robots from The Matrix)

End Update.

Find out more about the Pipeline Explorer.

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