Roving robot goes where humans can't

Richard Parker, Andre Geldenhuis and Chris Hann with the small UC rover robot designed to inspect floor piles of damaged buildings. Photo / Supplied
Richard Parker, Andre Geldenhuis and Chris Hann with the small UC rover robot designed to inspect floor piles of damaged buildings. Photo / Supplied

A University of Canterbury student has created a robot designed to inspect the piles under quake-damaged buildings.

Postgraduate student Andre Geldenhuis has been testing the small rover over summer as part of a scholarship programme.

"It runs off a simple programme from a laptop," Geldenhuis said. "The robot can be placed into the under-floor space below houses. It can be controlled using a laptop so that the video feed can be displayed on screen and it is driven with a joystick or a game pad."

Geldenhuis was not aware of any other other under-floor rovers in New Zealand.

"Quad-copters have been used for building inspection in Christchurch but I am unaware of any under-floor rovers being used."

Geldenhuis said people were generally not keen to crawl under houses, especially in Christchurch. If an earthquake occurred while they were under the floor and there was liquefaction, they could drown, he said.

"What they tend to do instead is pull up the floorboards which is expensive for everybody involved," Geldenhuis said.

"Our rover robot allows inspectors to see and measure damage in the parts of buildings that are difficult to access."

He said the rover robot uses an array of sensors to identify and map the size and extent of cracks and measure damage under a building. High definition video and still imagery records the condition of piles and other structures beneath houses.

Geldenuis's supervisor Dr Chris Hann has been working with Dr Richard Parker at Scion on the commercial applications of the device. Geldenhuis will present his findings at a public event on campus on February 8.

- nzherald.co.nz

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