Water Pipe Robot Utilizing Soft Inflatable Actuators

Contributors

This work presents the design and testing of a soft robot for water utility pipeline inspection. The preliminary findings of this new approach to conventional methods of pipe inspection demonstrate that a soft inflatable robot can successfully traverse the interior space of a range of diameter pipes without the need of adjusting mechanical components. The robot utilizes inflatable soft actuators with adjustable radius which, when pressurized, can mobilize the robot inside the pipe, or anchor it in place. Utilizing a  control algorithm for locomotion allows the robot to maneuver through a pipe mimicking the motion of an inchworm. This paper offers an evaluation of the structure and behavior of the inflatable actuators through computational modeling of the material and design, as well as the experimental data of the  forces and displacements generated by the actuators. The theoretical results are contrasted to experimental data utilizing a physical prototype of the soft robot. The unique design is anticipated to enable compliant robots to conform to the space offered to them and overcome any occlusions from accumulated solids found in pipes.