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From rescue missions to even helping humans with the building and maintenance of other robots, the programmable machines we refer to as 'robots', 'bots', 'androids', and by a host of other names, continue to show us that few limits exist in terms of what they can do.
In the same way the military uses some form of the slogan by land, by air, and by sea, the places where robots are designed and programmed to carry out missions continues to expand, proving they can go anywhere (Still, when it comes to aerial missions, with exceptions to drones, and a few NASA projects, bots of this size haven't made an impact quite yet).
An example of the expanding capabilities of robots is the 4-legged or quadruped machines that are being developed to assist with specific tasks in a growing number of industries. One of the most successful is ANYmal, a creation of tech company ANYbotics.
Guided by the mission of "Let Robots Go Anywhere", they set up scenarios to demonstrate that their robot can competently perform as part of the workforce. This time ANYmal took to the open sea, performing the first mission of its kind in the world by an automated robot. The test mission took place in September of this year.
Setting up ANYmal for Success
The test run took place on one of the world's largest offshore converter platforms in the off the coast of the North Sea. The company partnered with transmission system operator TenneT, a Dutch-German company involved with offshore wind energy production. With the aim of supplying energy for upwards to 41 million people, their work involves a pretty large amount of work coordination.
To prepare, a weeks-long safety training program was designed for both staff as well as the robot, involving (1) survival scenarios created for the sea, (2) scenarios involving helicopter escape, and (3) for ANYmal specifically, giving the bot time to learn the space after receiving a tour of the platform and generating a 3D map of the complete surroundings.
Aboard the ship, the bot stood, like a faithful guard dog awaiting orders, assessing its environment and ready to spring into action. As for the work ANYmal performed, it amounted to an impressive 16 inspection points, some of which included levers, oil levels, thermal measurements, gauges, and water levels.
Expanding the Capabilities of Robots
Explaining the need they hope to fill with machines like ANYmal, ANYbotics explains, "A crucial task for energy providers is the reliable and safe operation of their plants, especially when producing energy offshore. Autonomous mobile robots are able to offer comprehensive support through regular and automated inspection of machinery and infrastructure."
It seems that the sky is literally the limit for ANYmal: perhaps one day it will accompany a pilot on a military mission, or hop aboard a space shuttle to assist with one of the next space missions. Either way, the robot continues to raise the bar in the robotics industry with its impressive achievements.