From hurricanes to earthquakes, natural disaster will always require rescue efforts, and technology can ensure those efforts improve. Robots have tremendous potential for this job, and Honda has just demonstrated the E2-DR, a prototype of a bipedal disaster robot.
Shown at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2017) in Vancouver, the E2-DR is strong, nimble and can take tough weather. Standing at 5 and a half feet (1.68 meters) and weighing 187 pounds (85 kilograms), the E2-DR has a 1000-Wh lithion-ion battery, giving it a 90-minute operating time.
The E2-DR has 33 degrees of freedom, which refers to the number of single-axis rotational joints in each part of its body. These are split between the E2’s arms (8 per), legs (6 per), torso (2), hands (1) and head (1). A probing robot, Honda would rather leave precise hand manipulation to a more specialized bot. Regardless, these degrees afford the E2 flexibility to move in narrow free widths and narrow spaces as well as through scattered debris. It can rotate its torso 180 degrees, which allows it to climb steep stairs.
The E2 has five eyes. Two are Hokuyo laser rangefinders. There’s also a monocular camera with a synchronized LED flash, a SR4000 time of flight camera, and a stereo camera combined with an infrared light projector. E2 is dustproof, splashproof, can operate between 14 and 104 °F. It cleans itself as it works, keeping dirt from getting its gears, and has what Honda is calling a “segregated cooling structure” that will work fans through the E2’s torso.
It’s an impressive stats sheet, but Honda isn’t ready to send the E2 out to disaster zones quite yet. The E2 still has to learn how to adapt to falling debris that could knock it over. While the company has hinted that the E2 can stand up after getting knocked down, there isn’t any word on how durable it is.
Which is fine, because Honda isn’t done with it yet. The company stressed during IROS that the E2 is still a work in progress. Hopefully by IROS 2019, we’ll be watching it shake off getting donked by a tree trunk.