Jun 192013

This is a huge leap forward in both EOD technology and robotics in general.

Of the 25,000 Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions conducted by the US military in Iraq, only 30 have resulted in fatalities according to Army Col. K. Reinhard, commander of the joint EOD teams operating in the theater. That’s still 30 too many. And that’s why DARPA‘s developed the most advanced EOD surrogate ever, a veritable Jaeger of bomb disposal: theBimanual Dexterous Robotic Platform (BDRP).

EOD operations are vital not only to soldiers in the field but also to civilians in the same fields after military operations have ceased. But disabling explosives, whether they’re the improvised variety prefered by insurgents or landmines formerly used by nation states, is an exceedingly dangerous occupation. And while steady advances in robotic EOD platform technologies since the 1970s have transformed these systems into functional surrogates for their human operators, that functionality has always been a bit crude. Tank treads, monoscopic EO vision, and 5-axis gripper claws are not exactly close corollaries to the human experience. And that’s where the BDRP, better known as Sally, comes in.

See, instead of trying to shoehorn the functionality of a human hand into a gripper claw, a researcher team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, led by designer, Michael McLoughlin, simply used a robotic arm designed for people. That is, the team attached a pair of DARPA-designed Modular Prosthetic Limbs onto a 2-wheeling robotic torso. The prototype appendages are being made “to create a neurally controlled artificial limb that will restore near-natural motor and sensory capability to upper-extremity amputee patients,” as part of the APL’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program.

Read more . . .



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