Autonomous Power Distribution System
Michigan Technological University researchers are developing a team of robots that can autonomously rebuild electrical networks in the event the power gets knocked out. The robots map out obstacles and string together power lines all on their own. They can carry their own batteries, or could be outfitted with generators or solar cells to recharge themselves and other robots on the team.
Team leader and assistant professor of mechanical engineering Nina Mahmoudian says if these robots can access and turn power back on at communication towers then people can be rescued in emergency situations and rescuers can communicate with each other without any hassle. To date, the team has developed a tabletop model of the system, which involves a group of robots working independently to establish emergency power. Now that this has been proven successful, the next step is to make a full scale version.
Each robot within the system is programmed to take the shortest path to its destination while avoiding any obstacles that it encounters. Currently each mini robot is powered by a 12V battery, but on a life size version many types of power sources could be used. Research is still in process to develop different algorithms which will enable the robots to successfully navigate real environments. In a real life disaster situation, a full sized robot would dock with a cell tower, a second robot would dock with the first, and would become the power source for communication.
The researchers at MTU feel that this technology can have other applications other that establishing power networks, it could be of significant use to the military, and it could be a power source to recharge other robots.
Though mobile phones are a god send and have made land lines a thing of the past, sometimes they can leave you in a messy situation if you can’t catch the right signals. This robotic system consisting of a team of miniature robots that use lamps and a flag made to wave a small motor to represent cell towers could literally be a life saver. These blackout fighting robots could be the heroes of a disaster