A partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and members of corporate oil is looking to make Mattel’s ‘Transformers’ a reality.
According to Live Science, DOD contractor Houston Mechatronics is a company founded by a former NASA robot engineer who is looking to design the first ever transforming submersible robot that will have both civilian and military applications.
On May 1, Houston Mechatronics announced that it had completed the hardest part of what will be called ‘Aquanaut’, a unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) weighing just over 2,000 lbs.
The arms for Aquanaut will be the bread and butter for the transformer and for whoever is tasking the robot with missions.
Live Science notes that each arm, which are the only parts completed, is a significant chunk of the Aquanaut’s length — 9 feet 6 inches (2.9 meters) in AUV mode, and 11 feet 6 inches (3.5 meters) in ROV mode — and highly articulated for a number of tasks requiring dexterity.”
The transformation process was adopted because as Aquanaut moves through the watery depths, it can conserve energy better if it takes on a sleek design with less drag, allowing it to travel further.
“When Aquanaut moves through the water, we want as little drag as possible to extend the maximum range of what the vehicle can do on battery power,” Houston Mechatronics spokesperson Sean Halpin said. “By enclosing the limbs, we’re able to operate the vehicle over great distances, up to 200 kilometers [124 miles].
Once it arrives at its destination, the sub-like form transforms into a two-armed robot and begins carrying out its assignment.
Once the physical concept was complete, the team next worked on the intellectual aspect of Aquanaut. By design, Aquanaut will operate far from its base, which requires that it not only heed the instructions of its operator, but also that it have enough learned situational awareness that it can adapt its orders to onsite circumstances.
Being at a distance from its home base also required that the designers create a transformer that can perform self-diagnosis and even fix itself in many situations.
If all goes well, Aquanaut’s first fully-assembled underwater tank test should take place in the next couple of months and be available for sale in 2019.
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