Teleoperated Repair Robot Manipulation Apparatus
For a teleoperated repair robot, we do not need to repreduce a human
hand (which is an evolutionary "jack of all trades, master of none")
but instead build the tools necessary for effecting repair of machinery.
This is already being done on assembly lines in car factories, water
fab plants, and other industries around the world. If the robots
are designed from the start to facilitate this sort of repair
(standarization of as many parts as possible so to reduce the
number of different replacement parts necessary and a little thought
given to the ability of the repair robot to access the interior of
another robot), then such a task is not at all difficult.
In fact, given a supply of replacement parts and the ability to
cannibalize robots with non-repairable breakdowns, such a system
could probably do pretty well. This would also allow the system to
consolidate the working parts into functioning robots while waiting
for replacement parts from earth. Such a system could also "scale-up",
starting off with modular robots where entire modules are swapped out
and then as advancements in robotics allow for improved repair and
fabrication units to be sent it may be possible for the robots to
perform actual repairs on the broken modules themselves given a
supply of components (or component parts cannibalized from other
Robots with the "intelligence" to perform module replacement can be
built using existing off-the-shelf technology, and repair of the
modules could be done using teleoperation. Round trip time for this
sort of teleoperation should not be a problem. We are not talking
about surgery where something is going to bleed to death. The module
repair robot is programmed with an initial library of functional
operations (e.g. "solder the selected component in the given position",
"remove the selected component", etc.) to be performed and some testing
routines, the operator selects an operation from this menu or programs a
new routine to send to the repair robot and then goes out for coffee. The
robot does the operation, performs another set of the test routines, and
sends back the results. Repeat until done. The operator in this case is
providing the intelligence by examining the situation reported from the
diagnostic routines and then selecting the operation to be performed. The
onboard library handles time-critical events.
Such a system front-loads more costs into the design and initial
fabrication of such robots, but given the cost of getting these
robots to where they are going to be used, this seems to be the
right way to go.
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