Surface Vehicles and Robots
Section 4.2.5.
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Teleoperated Repair Robot Manipulation Apparatus

Jim McCoy

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 broken modules).

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.

Surface Vehicles and Robots

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