SEArm is a new robotic manipulator for underwater vehicles developed at the Department of Marine Technology. The robotic manipulator, which is owned by Searo AS, is primarily designed for smaller underwater drones and provides a low-cost alternative to existing technologies.
Most current robotic manipulator designs focus on power and therefore requires large underwater drones for deployment. However, large drones are not very suitable for conducting inspections, maintenance and repairs, as the size prohibit access to small, cluttered environments.
Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Marine Technology, Bent Haugaløkken, is one of the designers of the arm, he hopes that it will fill a niche in the market.
He explains that the team behind the arm wanted the ability to conduct repairs that required manipulation while using small underwater vehicles. The manipulator had to be modular to increase operational flexibility, and electric to allow it to connect to the drone’s battery. Such a manipulator did not exist at the time, and the only way to get one was to design and build it themselves.
– We quickly realized that there was a market for these manipulators. Hobby divers, researchers, and industry are all potential customers. We expect demand to rise as more and more people use small underwater drones to explore, monitor, and conduct repairs.
“The current manipulator design is available as an on-demand development kit. Haugaløkken says that the vision of Searo is for customers to tailor the product to their requirements and that industrial version of the manipulator is under development.”
- We also provide a ROS package which allows to control the manipulator on its own. The manipulator is electric, modular, and neutrally buoyant. The modular nature of the manipulator increases design flexibility. Additionally, different kind of end-effector tools, brushes, and tools for sampling could allow the operator to tailor the arm to the mission-specific requirements.