Valkyrie is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world. Standing 1.8 meters tall, weighing 125kg she has 44 separate joints to coordinate balance and movement. Top this all off with a price tag over £1 million; she’s not your average child’s toy.
Built by NASA in 2015 and brought to the University of Edinburgh in 2016, Valkyrie is designed to push the boundaries of how humans and robots can work together, work in disaster areas where people can’t go and, eventually build habitats on Mars.
Programming an advanced piece of technology like Valkyrie to perform basic tasks such as walking and balancing is exceptionally challenging. Aware of the amount of trial and error involved in programming her, the robotics department at the university approached Hoist UK to provide a safety solution.
The university robotics department wanted a system that would allow multiple trial and error movements and balancing tests for Valkyrie. This would prevent her falling to the floor, causing damage to an irreplaceable robot.
Our team had to work in association with The University of Edinburgh’s advanced robotics department and two other key contractors on this exceptionally specific job.
The university staff had a very specific plan of what was required for Valkyrie. This involved a double girder overhead crane running the 13.5 meter length of the room with a 6.5 meter span bridge. This would allow Valkyrie freedom to perform a variety of tests around her room while allowing her to hold a standing position in the event of a failure causing her to fall.
Based on the requirements provided by the university; our team designed, tested and installed a radio controlled Double Girder Rigid Crane System.
A VR Series Electric chain hoist was fitted to the 6.5 meter span bridge. The bridge and the hoist were both rated with a safe working load of 500kg (4 times the weight of Valkyrie). Valkyrie was to be hung from the hoist to allow her to stay upright whenever a movement test failure would cause her to fall.
Two radio controlled motorised crane bridges were fitted to the runways, one for immediate use, the second added to accommodate future expansions of the project. The motorised system would move independently of Valkyrie, allowing her the ability to move safely throughout the room. The radio controller would allow the operator the ability to move the hoist, giving Valkyrie free movement in the working area, from a safe distance.
The system was installed onto the underside of the laboratories existing concrete ceiling. The crane system was fitted with an enclosed conductor providing power to the crane using a 3 phase mains power supply.
"Being a part of a program that will one day lead to people travelling to Mars was very exciting. Our team really enjoyed building a relationship with the robotics department at The University of Edinburgh and we’re very proud of the work we’ve done here and excited to see what becomes of it in the future”.
"Working with the Valkyrie robot is not a case of if she falls down, it’s when. We are pushing the robots to their limits in a controlled environment so that they are safer and more robust when they get deployed outside of the lab. Hoist UK helped provide a valuable safety solution to allow our ongoing testing with the robot in a safe environment. We’re really pleased with the result and look forward to working with them in the future when we expand the program further.
The Advanced robotics department of the university of Edinburgh are currently setting up a new space for their continued robotics development. You can see Valkyrie moving underneath Hoist UK's support structure via the video opposite.