PI: Subhrajit Bhattacharya 

University: Lehigh University

The COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying transition to work-from-home has taxed all aspects of telecommunications infrastructure. To keep up, there is a need to rapidly inspect, repair, and upgrade these systems. FLX Solutions, Inc., a PA Keystone Innovation Zone and Ben Franklin corporation, has developed a snake-like robot that enables workers to safely perform tasks in previously inaccessible areas. The FLX BOT improves worker safety while increasing uptime for companies at a price point that makes it affordable for mass deployments. A key outcome of this PITA grant is the development of algorithms needed for a first-generation user interface that will power the 3-5 link smart tool configuration of the FLX BOT enabling field trials in 2021. Algorithms will also be developed for motion planning for the robot and for performing manipulation tasks using the robot as a hand-held robotic manipulator. These will enable workers to use the FLX BOT with minimal training, allowing for rapid deployment. This project is a collaboration between research and industry through a partnership between the Mechanical Engineering Department at Lehigh University and FLX Solutions, Inc. The results of the project will enable the FLX BOT to be commercialized, revolutionizing the safety and efficiency of upkeep and improvements in infrastructure-related industries, and better prepare us for the next disaster.