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Researchers at Iowa State University are experimenting with the use of solar-powered robots in work situations that would be unsafe for humans.

Clean Power

Solar-Powered Robots Could Improve Work Safety

Researchers at Iowa State University are experimenting with the use of solar-powered robots in work situations that would be unsafe for humans.

Every year, there are a number of worker fatalities and millions of injuries. For all industries in the United States in the year 2013, there were well over 4,000 deaths. In 2009, there were an estimated 280 US workers that died in manufacturing-related accidents, and there were about 5 million injuries.

solar robot

Solar-powered robots might be able to do work in areas that are dangerous to humans, or in difficult conditions. An assistant professor at Iowa State University is working on the creation of solar-powered robots to work in situations that would or could be harmful to humans. For example, rather than sending an employee or employees into an area contaminated with radiation, a robot could be used to perform some tasks, so there would be no harmful exposure. If noxious vapors were present from a chemical spill in an enclosed space, it would better to not send a person into it; a robot, however, might be able to do what was needed.

In the event of a bomb scare, or in the case of a shooter on the loose on a campus, a remote-controlled robot could be used for surveillance. A robot might even be helpful in the case of a fire or other natural disaster.

The Iowa State robots are being designed to identify strong sources of electricity in order to recharge themselves, and to go into sleep mode on cloudy days to conserve energy.

It isn’t only dangerous tasks that might be undertaken by robots some day. Very repetitive, simple tasks could also be performed by them. While this use might at first appear unimpressive, the total cost of repetitive strain injuries runs into the billions every year, and that is only in the US.

Robots are not likely to eliminate all those injuries, but even making a dent would help. If they are solar-powered and intelligent enough to recharge themselves when they are not working, they might be very helpful.

Image Credit: Michael Rowley, Iowa State

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