Remember WALL-E? The friendly and compassionate ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class’ robot on a mission to tidy up our desolate planet?
19 November 2019
By Mariusz Bogacki, Researcher and Science Communicator, Edinburgh
Remember WALL-E? The friendly and compassionate ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class’ robot on a mission to tidy up our desolate planet? The dramatic future of Earth depicted in this Disney Pixar film might be closer than we thought. Luckily I’m not talking about the environmental disaster (although things are heating up, literally), I am talking about the advancements in robotics. Developers in many domains are testing the possibilities of Eco-Robots – an unmanned machine working with and for the environment.
Let’s get to know some of them:
This tree-planting robot is capable of autonomously planting up to 10 trees in only 15 minutes. The robotic helper uses a spike tube to pierce the ground in order to drop a tree seedling from a preloaded tree cartridge and then fills the hole using a foot piston to finish the job. Admittedly, the Treerover experiences problems with navigating more mountainous or rocky terrains – locomotion is an issue that most of today’s robots struggle with. However, a little cooperation from fellow humans tackles this issue efficiently. And this is only the beginning – developers are already working towards a bigger and more capable model.
Autonomous Weeding Robot
The ubiquitous use of herbicides – or weedkillers – in commercial farming for weed control poses many environmental threats. Limiting the use of chemicals would not only improve the quality of food but also make farming more eco-friendly. The autonomous weeding robot might just be the answer to this. The fieldwork-ready robot is able to allocate and differentiate between weeds and plants in order to apply a small preset amount of herbicides directly onto the weed, in doing so using 20 times less of the chemical on average. Thanks to the use of cameras, sensory technology and GPS to navigate the field the robot is fully autonomous and able to work up to 12 hours a day. Most importantly it is also fully solar powered: after all plantation farms are never short of sunlight!
Robotic Fish Patrol
Around the world cargo ships pollute waters by dumping chemical waste into the oceans and seas. Human patrols employed to monitor the pollution levels are costly and time consuming, not to mention they also need to use motorboats in order to do so. To tackle this problem, a fleet of Robotic Fish - yes you read that right - are sent out to monitor and search for pollution in ports and other aquatic areas. These robot fish have chemical sensors attached to them and are autonomously controlled. This allows them to detect significant amounts of pollution and send over the research result in real time, significantly reducing costs and time needed to patrol our precious waters.
Many industries are concerned about the rise of robots. However, these eco-friendly solutions present a brighter side to the incoming world of human-robot coexistence. Maybe the future will be more like ‘WALL-E’ rather than ‘Terminator’ after all?