Most people associate Honda with just vehicles, but it has an extensive product line that includes power equipment, engines, and robots. Now, the Japanese company has unveiled what could be the future of disaster recovery efforts: E2-DR.
At the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2017 in Vancouver, Honda showed a working prototype of its disaster response robot. The bipedal machine was first announced in a paper at IROS 2015, and we now know a bit more about its abilities.
Standing at around 5'5" and weighing 187 Ibs, E2-DR has a torso that can rotate 180 degrees and hands that can grip, allowing it to climb ladders and stairs. The robot walks at 1.2 mph, can step over objects, traverse debris, and endure 20 minutes of rain. In particularly challenging terrain, the robot can use all four limbs for extra stability. Plus, being only 9.8 inches thick means it can squeeze through some tight gaps.
Unlike many similar robots, Honda chose to use optical fibers instead of traditional cables for communications, which helps keep E2-DR's weight and size down. It's powered by a 1000-Wh lithium-ion battery that allows it to operate for 90 minutes and even comes with an Intel Core i7 CPU.
Thanks to its air ducts and internal fans, the robot can work in temperatures from 14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit without overheating. Its head consists of several cameras, two laser rangefinders, and an infrared light projector, while its hands also have cameras, along with 3D sensors. Honda envisions E2-DR using special tools with wireless communication to manipulate its environment.
Honda stresses that its robot is a prototype, so there are likely many years of work to be done before a finished unit is ready. But there could come a time when E2-DR is a common sight during disaster rescue missions.