Advertisement

Blog

A snow-thrower on steroids

With the US East Coast digging out from yet another snowstorm in a year-long march of wintry weather, even the most stalwart residents are suffering from snow overdose, leading them to wonder: WHERE ARE OUR SNO-BOTS?

Image courtesy of ABC News and Dan Gould/Worcester Telegram & Gazette/AP Photo

Image courtesy of ABC News and Dan Gould/Worcester Telegram & Gazette/AP Photo

Robotics(1) is already mature enough to build huge robots, capable of building cars, to miniaturized robots, capable of assisting in human surgery and everything in between. Mobile robots are even used in some manufacturing sites to build and package goods while transporting them to the loading dock.

Everyone is familiar with the Mars Rover. If engineers can put a robot on Mars, a pretty inhospitable environment, to explore the surface, drill for geologic samples, and conduct experiments … well, where are our Sno-bots? What could be more inhospitable than 2+ feet of delicate, beautiful, no-two-alike ice crystals—with perhaps some road-sand and -salt thrown in for good measure?

A snow-thrower on steroids?

Yes. For custom snow removal on pathways and driveways, for example, stakes equipped with RF tags could be pre-placed in patterns to target areas to be cleared. Using specialized software and sensors–both optical and RF–the robotic snow-thrower could operate on treads to provide adequate traction over less than stable terrain. Sporting a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) or hybrid system, it would be heavy enough to plow through inches of snow at a time. And borrowing a lesson from automated vacuums, (2), it could be programmed to automatically return to a fuel replenishing or charging station in the home garage or patio after use. And it would be easy to give the home owner a direct view of its operations via a smartphone, laptop, or pc.

Operating safety would necessarily come first. Our Sno-bot would necessarily be equipped with layer upon layer of security and safety features, both electronic and mechanical. If a table saw can be equipped with a safe stop(3) mechanism, our robotic snow-thrower could employ something similar.

Guided by vision sensors, proximity sensors, remote control, Wi-Fi networking, or traveling between RF-tagged areas, automated-guided-vehicles (AGVs) are already in use at manufacturing sites. Our fictitious snow removal AGV would benefit from sensor hubs—sensors and microprocessors, robust power management, and wireless connectivity—all industry-proven and available today from STMicroelectronics, by the way–in a similar fashion.

So c’mon folks, don’t you want to remain nice and warm and safe from the vicissitudes of winter’s worst weather while your Sno-bot churns away at the accumulation of the white stuff in your driveway? Someone, please, invent this thing…

  1. Control Design
  2. iRobot
  3. SawStop

7 comments on “A snow-thrower on steroids

  1. etnapowers
    February 20, 2015

    “For custom snow removal on pathways and driveways, for example, stakes equipped with RF tags could be pre-placed in patterns to target areas to be cleared.”

    It seems a solution perfectly suitable for a smart city, that is what for example what New York is going to become.

  2. etnapowers
    February 20, 2015

    “Robotics(1) is already mature enough to build huge robots, capable of building cars, to miniaturized robots, capable of assisting in human surgery and everything in between. Mobile robots are even used in some manufacturing sites to build and package goods while transporting them to the loading dock.”

    Robotics is an application segment which holds promises of high development. It is a really interesting opportunity for all the companies producing components of the robots and a great opportunity to put intelligence in production systems like a production chain.

     

  3. antedeluvian
    February 20, 2015

    You are going to need more sensors to detect snow falling on your neighbour's property and then some feedback loop to adjust the trajectory of the thrown snow so as to keep your neighbours happy.

    It is also illegal to dump the snow on the road in front of the driveway- even more sensors.

    Good luck with including the wind in that.

     

    But put me down for one when it is available.

  4. Effective-Technical-Writing dot com
    February 21, 2015

    No matter how smart the city becomes, live augers would be scary.  I will still want some type of human monitoring and ability to intervene.

    The RFID tag strength is not here yet however the technology does exist.  Getting it funded is another story.  Although it buries all of the incremental software efforts that are doing what everyone else does, funding always seems to favor anything but logic.  If anyone is interested, I can elaborate.  Let's just say you won't be waiting at Walmart to checkout anymore….and the potential goes far, far beyond that.

  5. sravan1391
    February 22, 2015

    Operating safety would necessarily come first. Our Sno-bot would necessarily be equipped with layer upon layer of security and safety features, both electronic and mechanical. If a table saw can be equipped with a safe stop(3) mechanism, 

  6. etnapowers
    February 23, 2015

    Safety is certainly the first requirement of such a system, I'm thinking to a semi-automatic system, that has the human control as prioritary.

  7. etnapowers
    February 23, 2015

    @VTMSEE: The human control has ever to be implemented and must be prioritary, because it is an activity that interacts with human presence. The RFID is a really promising solution and I think funding will be present if the potential of this solution will be clearly enhanced by an effective communication network of the smart city.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.