Research Highlights

Underwater Cleaning Now Done by Robots (2010.9.30)

2011-03-17 1,095

PIRO, the Pohang Institute for Intelligent Robotics located on the POSTECH campus, the first independent research institute for intelligent robotics in Korea, released information on PIRO-U3, a cleaning robot that functions underwater. Under supervision, the robot can be used in various places, such as industrial water tanks, reservoirs, riverbeds and also inshore area. It is noteworthy that PIRO-U3 was completed with domestic techniques only.

Before PIRO-U3, sediments at the bottom of industrial water tanks were manually removed after draining all the water; the cleaning process of riverbeds or ocean floors relied on scuba divers with appropriate apparatuses. But such complicated and dangerous measures can be substituted for by PIRO-U3. The robot works under supervision via a screen and constantly transmits data to the supervisor when it goes underwater, making the cleaning process very convenient.

Professor Dai-Jin Kim, President of PIRO, announced that the robot can be applied to various underwater conditions including both fresh water and seawater. He stated on September 30, 2010, that PIRO-U3 will be deployed in actual reservoirs and coastal waters. He also emphasized that, not only is PIRO-U3 strong against both acidic and alkaline constituents frequently found in industrial waters, but it is also durable in considerable water depths. Furthermore, the robot is equipped with a device similar to the air bladder of a fish, which enables it to rise to the surface by itself even if the transmission dies due to malfunctions.

The robot is 800mm high, 1,100mm long and 650mm wide, and can clean 30 to 60 tons of waste per hour. Besides the fundamental role of eliminating garbage, it can be also used for underwater exploration, since it is equipped with sensors that measure depth, temperature, turbidity and the amount of salt in the surrounding water.

Specialists in the field are predicting a ripple effect on the market for robotics; the successful manufacture of PIRO-U3 using up to 80 percent of pure Korean components without any foreign input implies that PIRO has secured the core technology necessary for the development of other various robots for marine resource exploration, maritime disaster management and drilling. PIRO reports that many companies have already expressed their interest to engage with PIRO-U3 in underwater cleaning or to benefit from technology transfer.

PIRO-U3 is the third version after U1, whose development was supervised by Dr. Jin Ho Suh, Director of R&D at PIRO. “We are concentrating our efforts on responding to the inquiries from enterprises that hope to introduce PIRO-U3 in their cleaning activities,” stated Dr. Suh, “and we are planning to commercialize our work on intelligent robotics to a broader range.”

After successful experimental sessions in indoor water tanks, PIRO-U3 has been applied to a series of practical field experiments at the Pohang Bukbu Beach, which included clearing the inshore area and restoring of the lost sands in certain areas.