Anna Konda, the robotic firefighter

Summary:Anna Konda is a robotic fire hose moving like a snake. This robot, which has been developed in Norway, is 3 m long and weighs 70 kg. The snake contains 20 hydraulic motors powered by water pressurized to 100 bars and already available inside the fire hose. And it can climb up stairs or break through a wall. Very clever design!

In fact, Anna Konda is a robotic fire hose moving like a snake. This robot, which has been developed in Norway by SINTEF, is 3 m long and weighs 70 kg. The snake contains 20 water hydraulic motors that move the robotic joints. And the energy needed to power these motors comes from water pressurized to 100 bars and already available inside the fire hose. This gives enough energy to this water-powered robot to climb up stairs, to lift a car up off the ground or even break through a wall. Very clever design! The designers think that this robot could not only replace humans to fight fires when it's too dangerous for them, but could also be used for subsea operations or explosion prevention.

Before going further, here is a picture of Anna Konda (Credit: Dagbladet). And as this article is written in Norwegian, I will not attempt to translate it -- even with the help of this free online Norwegian to English translator. However, it contains other images of this snake robot and a short video.

Anna Konda, the robotic firefighter

Now, it's time to discover some details about Anna Konda, enclosed in the article written by Åse Dragland, from SINTEF (The Foundation for Industrial and Scientific Research in Norway).

The snake contains 20 water hydraulic motors that move the robotic joints -- and a similar number of valves to control the water flow to each motor. Each module consists of two hydraulic motors and two valves. The outer layer is comprised of a strong steel skeleton containing the joint modules,which can rotate around two orthogonal axes. The joints are controlled by custom-built electronics.
"It is much like the grab on an excavator where different joints and movements are coordinated by the operator. In this instance, the operator is the computer," says Pål Liljebäck of SINTEF. "There are angle sensors in each joint, and we can decide with conplete accuracy the angle that we want in the joints. A camera in the snake's head makes operating the snake like driving a remote-controlled car. The operator can tell the snake to move from A to B, and the snake works out on its own how to accomplish this. It knows how to cross a pile of materials, climb down on the back side and twist itself round objects in order to get footing."

Below is a photo of Pål Liljebäck with the robotic snake (Credit: Rune Petter Ness, for GEMINI)

Anna Konda with its designer

This picture comes from another version of Åse Dragland's article published by GEMINI in its 2005/2006 issue, Snake robot to the rescue. GEMINI is a common publication of SINTEF and NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in Trondheim, Norway.

You'll find other images of Anna Konda on this page at SINTEF.

But what a robotic snake would be useful for? Dragland gives some answers.

The snake has a wide variety of applications: fighting fires where humans can not enter due to heat or the risk of building collapse; underwater operations in connection with maintenance of oil installations on the sea floor; rescue operations in earthquake areas and potentially explosive situations.
"Tunnel fires are explosive and it is extremely dangerous for firefighters to enter the tunnel to extinguish the fire," says Stavdahl. [...] "Since the snake has modules, it is possible to design snakes for different functions: snakes can, for example, provide oxygen masks to people trapped in the tunnel, light up the tunnel or carry a camera that provides firefighters outside an overview of the situation without requiring them to enter."

So far, there is no commercial version of this robot, but the researchers are trying to attract money to develop such a version.

Sources: Åse Dragland, SINTEF, via innovations-report, July 18, 2006; and various web sites

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Topics: Emerging Tech

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