ANYmal explores Zurich’s sewerage system

The robot ANYmal developed at the ETH can see and hear, and even open doors. In a research mission, ANYmal has now explored the drains and tunnels below Zurich. It is hoped that the robot will be able to carry out dangerous work down there autonomously in future.

(Image credit: ETH Zürich/Daniel Winkler)

ANYmal weighs 30 kg, has four articulated legs and something resembling a head that consists of a camera and various sensors. The robot was created at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and will now be commercialised and developed further by the ETH spin-off ANYbotics. The company’s mission is to make the robot deployable in all types of terrain.

ANYmal is now taking part in the research project THING (subTerranean Haptic InvestiGator). This aims to advance the perceptual capabilities of robots beyond touch, enabling them to also move around in dark or damp places, for example. The project has brought together ETH researchers with colleagues from universities in Edinburgh, Pisa, Oxford and Poznań. All these institutions will be experimenting with ANYmal robots.

As ETH reported in a press release, this project has now seen ANYmal go down into the labyrinth of drains and tunnels below Zurich, where he successfully collected a lot of data. The robot recorded 500,000 measurements per second over the course of the day. This will now be analysed by the research groups. ETH boasts that they are now one step closer to their goal of delivering a robot that can function properly in challenging conditions underground.

It is hoped ANYmal can one day be deployed in the sewerage system. It might be used, for instance, to help the City of Zurich employees who regularly have to walk or crawl through the some 100 km of accessible shafts and drains underneath the city and whose job it is to check the walls and floors for damage, which ETH highlights is work that is not only dangerous but also poses a health risk.

There are many possible other uses for the robot. It recently explored an offshore platform in the middle of the North Sea, where it could take on the task of inspections in future.

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