Innovation That Matters

Romu can install erosion-minimising walls | Photo source Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Autonomous robots build erosion-minimising walls


The Romu robot aids in environmental and restoration efforts in ways humans and other types of machinery cannot

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Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a wheeled, autonomous robot capable of installing erosion-minimising walls into the ground. The robot, dubbed Romu, could eliminate what has been strenuous installation process for engineers.

The walls are created by inserting interlocking metal plates, called sheet piles, into the ground. Once in place, they can prevent soil from eroding after rainfall. Romu can also build dam-like structures by linking several of walls.

“This robot also could address disaster situations where walling off dangerous chemical spills or released radioactive fluids makes it difficult or impossible for humans to intervene,” Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber said.

The latest developments are rooted in the researchers’ previous work on robot swarms for construction applications. The researchers have successfully tested this technology in the lab and on a beach. An eventual goal is to have swarms of the robots linked wirelessly that can collaborate on large-scale projects.  



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