Takanishi Laboratory of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, announced Aug 22, 2013, an autonomous environmental monitoring robot that it developed in cooperation with Kokushikan University and Japan Robotech Ltd (a start-up based in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan).
The price of the robot is as low as ¥150,000-500,000 (approx US$1,526-5,085) because the researchers of those organizations used a smartphone, existing cloud service, etc. They expect that several units of the robot are used at the same time for observing wild animals in forests, monitoring radiation in cultivated areas, preventing damages from wildlife, etc.
The robot measures 250 x 360 x 200mm and weighs 5kg. It is equipped with an Android-based smartphone (Sony Mobile Communications Inc's "Xprria SO-05D"). And a dedicated application installed in the smartphone controls sensors and motors used for moving the robot.
The application periodically measures data from the smartphone's sensors (such as GPS and camera) and external sensors (radiation dosimeter and temperature, moisture, illuminance, PM2.5 and hydrogen sulfide sensors). And it uploads data to the "Google Drive," a cloud service provided by Google Inc, via a mobile network.
It is possible to set a route and the frequency of data acquisition and make the robot autonomously operate as well as to remotely control it by using another smartphone.
The robot moves on six oval legs (three on the right side and the other three on the left side). The axis of each leg is not located in the center of the oval shape. And, when the axis is spinning, each leg kicks the ground, moving the robot.
The robot is equipped with two brushless DC motors, and each motor is used to move three legs on either of the right and left sides. The robot can move forward and backward and turn right and left. Its moving speed is 0.1m per second. It can go over a step of up to about 18cm. Even when it falls from a step and turns over, it can continue to move.
The robot has a 4,300mAh lithium (Li) polymer rechargeable battery and a photovoltaic (PV) battery (12V, 200mA). It switches between the operation mode and the charging mode in accordance with a preset schedule. If the battery is charged for about five hours on a sunny day, the robot can operate for about an hour.
For rainy days, the driving parts of the robot's body and legs and the connectors of the PV battery are waterproof with rubber gaskets, etc. The water resistance of the entire robot is equivalent to IP55. The body and legs are made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and do not break even when dropped from a height of about 1m.
Japan Robotech will manufacture and sell the robot. It plans to develop the first model within 2013, sell it on a trial basis in the summer of 2014 and release it in the autumn of 2014. Its price is about ¥150,000 for a basic model without external sensor and ¥500,000 for a fully-equipped model having external sensors.