the autonomous robot that can demolish solid waste dumps

GE Research’s Robotics and Autonomy team has developed an innovative autonomous soft robot design adapted from its famous autonomous earthworm tunneling robot, developed as part of the Defense Advanced Research Agency’s (DARPA) Underminer program. .

Dubbed Pipe-worm, this updated autonomous soft robot design has cockroach-like whiskers and powerful fluid-powered muscles that give him extreme flexibility and insight.

The team recently demonstrated the Pipe-worm robot at its Niskayuna research campus. The demo showed the robot’s potential for military applications envisioned in the Underminer program. The robot is also ideal for autonomous monitoring, inspection, repair and even mapping of oil and gas pipelines or underground municipal water and sewage systems.

During the demonstration, the Pipe-worm successfully traversed over 100 meters of pipe while navigating numerous bends, diameters and elevation changes. It even moved through pipes without interrupting normal operation and even against fast flowing liquid.

The robot’s powerful artificial muscles make it suitable for heavy-duty work such as cleaning up solid waste deposits, known as “fatbergs”. These giant piles of solid waste plague municipal water and sewer systems in the United States and around the world. Many innovative technologies are used to solve the problem.

This autonomous robot with artificial intelligence has the ability to inspect and potentially repair pipes itself, breaking up the formation of masses of solid waste such as fatbergs, which are a constant problem in many sewer systems. of our country. We’ve added cockroach-like whiskers to his body, giving him vastly improved levels of perception for making sharp turns or navigating through dark, unfamiliar parts of a network of pipes.

Deepak Trivedi, Pipe-Worm Development Manager.

The combination of artificial intelligence and cockroach whiskers allows GE’s Pipe-Worm to automatically identify bends, bends, junctions, pipe diameter, pipe orientation and other pipe characteristics from very detailed way. With this information, the robot can create a map of a given pipe network in real time.


The GE team is currently investigating other autonomous inspection and repair applications, such as jet engines and electric turbines in the aviation and energy industries. Additionally, the Pipe-worm robot could be used to inspect the conduits of underground fiber optic cables that connect billions of people and machines to the internet online.

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