Researchers develop mole-type drilling robot for exploration of underground resources

By Lim Chang-won Posted : June 4, 2020, 14:01 Updated : June 4, 2020, 14:01

[Courtesy of KAIST]

SEOUL -- Researchers have developed a drilling robot for the exploration of underground resources by mimicking characteristics of moles, known for their pointy snouts and digging abilities. The robot called "Mole-bot" can do a one-stop job quicker than existing drilling equipment and causes no environmental pollution.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) said its research team led by Hyun Myung, a professor of electrical engineering, has developed Mole-bot. "We can use it not only for unmanned exploration of underground resources but also for soil extraction in space planet exploration," the professor said

The Korea Testing Laboratory's assessment showed a rolling speed of 1.46 meters per hour and an estimated error of 0.4 degrees in direction angle, the institute said. The speed was three times higher than existing excavation equipment and the direction angle performance is six times higher. Mole-bot can replace traditional underground drilling equipment that requires drilling machines, pipelines and pumps. Abrasives and oil used in hydraulic equipment have raised concerns about pollution.

Moles have adapted to living in self-dug tunnels underground. Their spade-shaped, cylindrical bodies, short powerful front limbs and sharp claws are highly adapted for burrowing into soil and tunneling through it. Mole-bot borrowed the typical characteristics of moles.

Mole-bot, which is 25 centimeters in diameter and 84 cm in length, weighs about 26 kilograms. It is divided into drilling, debris removal, waist and moving parts. The drilling section was produced by mimicking characteristics of the chisel tooth mole that scrapes dirt with its teeth and freely turns its head to make a drilling hole larger than its body.

The debris removal part simulates the shoulder structure of the humeral rotation mole that removes debris with large and powerful front paws and produces a powerful rotational force through straight motion of its shoulder blades. The waist is designed to freely change direction to 360 degrees. Because Mole-bot is equipped with an inertial navigation sensor, users can locate it by measuring changes in the data of the earth's magnetic field.
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