Robots Could Help Prevent Blackouts

First Posted: Sep 25, 2014 09:02 PM EDT

Power disasters may be taken care of by robots in the not so distant future, according to researchers at Michigan Technological University. Findings were presented via "Autonomous Power Distribution System," at the 19th World Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control, show that when havoc strikes, these intricate machines can hold key infrastructure cell towers to help delay search rescues within a matter of minutes.

"If we can regain power in communication towers, then we can find the people we need to rescue," said Mahmoudian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, in a news release. "And the human rescuers can communicate with each other."

"If we could deploy robots there, that would be the first step toward recovery," she added, noting that the cell towers are often located in hard-to-reach places. 

Together, researchers programmed the robots to restore power in small electrical networks that link up power cords and batteries to light little lamps and set up a flag to wave with a small electrical motor. All of the robots also operate independently.

In addition to this, the researchers are working on special forces to covert missions. The team's next project is in the works: a full-size, working model of their robot network. Their first robot is a tank-like vehicle donated by Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center. "This will let us develop path-planning algorithms that will work in the real world," concluded Mahmoudian.

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