PI: Subhrajit Bhattacharya
University: Lehigh University
As the facility infrastructure in the United States ages, there is a continual need to upgrade safety, electrical, and telecommunication systems. Impossible Incorporated LLC, a PA Keystone Innovation Zone company, has developed a patent pending one-inch diameter snake-like robot which is able to run wires without the mess. It will be inserted through an outlet-sized hole, then teleoperated inside the wall to the destination, drilling holes in studs and joists along the way. After, it rewinds through the wall, pulling the wires behind it. Other applications include locating trapped victims following natural disasters, inspection of critical infrastructure and hazardous areas, and as the next generation of robot arms for space exploration.

The goal of this project is to use the expertise of Professor Subhrajit Bhattacharya’s research group at Lehigh University to address systems-level development. Path planning algorithms that direct the robot’s links to avoid obstacles within the walls will be developed. Randomized exploration and search in the robot’s high-dimensional configuration space using algorithms such as rapidly-exploring random trees (RRT*) and probabilistic roadmaps (PRMs) will be used for efficient path planning. Ad hoc algorithms such as “follow the leader” –in which the snake-like robot’s body traces the path history of the robot’s head–will also be implemented and evaluated.

A virtual environment and model of the robot will be created to test algorithms and demonstrate the system to potential customers. Feedback from wall mapping systems will be integrated into the simulations to create a user interface displaying in-wall hazards.

Through this industry/university partnership formed by the PITA program, students will be able to learn the technical entrepreneurship process while using their research to solve industry problems. The results of this project will allow Impossible Incorporated LLC to launch the robot and revolutionize how upgrades in existing structures are performed.