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Space age spider turns its skills to slope safety


A GIANT remote-controlled robot developed from European Space Agency (ESA) missions could prevent landslides on earth without the labour intensive risk factor.

Expertise from manoeuvring satellites into correct orbit has been used to develop the machine known as Roboclimber.

D'Appolonia, one of the brokers in ESA's Technology Transfer Programme, worked with Italian construction firm ICOP and landslide specialist TEVE to define the initial concept.

They realised that space technology could be used to create a robot to insert 20m rods into slopes with the potential for failure.

The result is Roboclimber, a 3,000kg giant spider on four legs, the combined effort of seven companies across four European countries as well as one university and a research institute.

Designed to work on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, its legs move and position the drilling mechanism - consisting of a number of different rods and a robotic hand. The drill can form holes 20m deep and rotate within Roboclimber's metal frame to reach the optimum drilling angle.

Maybe the most important aspect of the Roboclimber is that it will make risky jobs safer.

Thanks to remote control, accidents related to operating on high scaffolding can be eliminated and, working at a safe distance, operators will not be endangered by sudden soil movement.

The Roboclimber is now being assembled and is expected to be finished in February. Field tests to drill holes are scheduled to take place shortly after. If successful, Roboclimber will be tested on an unstable slope next year and could appear on the market in the future.

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