Jun 24, 2019People & Industry

Meet Magnapod, the CSIRO’s Autonomous Robot

Magnapods sound and look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the people behind the ground-breaking technology are the real superstars in this story.

Magnapods are a type of autonomous robot capable of navigating complex environments for inspection. Their flexibility allows them to access difficult to reach or see spots, improving inspection coverage and quality over human inspectors.

In the case of the natural gas industry, Magnapod has potential application to inspect ship hulls or tanks. Where other robots (or ‘crawlers’ as they’re called) run into structural issues, like sharp 90 degree turns or other elements, human operators would need to detach and reattach the crawler to continue inspection. In the case of Magnapod this isn’t necessary, as it’s level of flexibility allows it to physically climb over or around potential obstacles.

The robot is tethered to a computer and power source, allowing it to go for prolonged periods without needing to return to charge up and can be remotely controlled by a human operator.

There are multiple benefits to not using humans for these sorts of tasks, too. For one, it reduces the time and associated costs of inspections. But, it also reduces potential harm to human inspectors by keeping them out of very confined spaces.

Two of the people working closely on this project are Jacob Oestreich, a Mechatronics Engineer, and Tirtha Bandyopadhyay, a Research Scientist and Cluster Leader for inspection robotics at CSIRO Data61. Jacob is developing and implementing reliable control systems that are able to detect critical events and prevent Magneto from falling in the event of failure. Tirtha leads a team of researchers and engineers in the development and commercialization of magneto. These sorts of jobs are becoming increasingly useful in industries like natural gas and resources, as well as in the science and engineering fields that sit alongside them.

For more information on Magnapod visit the CSIRO site.