Robin Robot was built around 1983 for use in DOE nuclear facilities.
Members of the Savannah River Lab Robotics group worked with Robin over the years to develop techniques and procedures for use in radiation areas and emergency response situations.

AIKEN, S.C. – Along with the latest developments in robotic technology, attendees at the 2018 Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix will have the opportunity to see up close the historic Robin Robot, a “relic” of the 1980s that was one of the most advanced robots of its time. 

   Today Robin Robot is a member of the Savannah River Site (SRS) Cold War Historic Preservation collection.  It arrived at SRS in June 1986, built for use in Department of Energy nuclear facilities by Odectics, Inc., with specifications from the Savannah River Lab Robotics group. The hexapod was built circa 1983 upon the Odex 1 research platform, which is presently part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection.  

   Robin, whose name was derived from it being a “ROBotic INsect,” was capable of lifting up to 1500 lbs., twice its own weight.  It was capable of reconfiguring its shape to be tall and slender or short and squat, and was able to walk in either configuration. Its onboard computer could be operated remotely and the robot moved under its own power.

Robin Robot garnered attention as one of the most advanced robots of its time in the 1980s.
Robin Robot garnered attention as one of the most advanced robots of its time in the 1980s. The robot, to be displayed at the 2018 Waste Management Symposia, is an artifact of the Savannah River Site (SRS) Cold War Historic Preservation Collection.

   Robin featured a camera system enabling remote users a visual view of its surroundings. Each of its six legs had its own minicomputer providing a high degree of dexterity and the ability to navigate unlevel surfaces and stairs. However, the most significant feature added for the DOE mission was the telescoping, jointed arm mounted on a rotating turret enabling the robot to do work. The robot was borrowed by NASA in the early 1990’s for evaluation and returned to SRS in 1994.

   Members of the Savannah River Lab Robotics group worked with Robin over the years to develop techniques and procedures for use in emergency response and maintenance-type situations. Robin’s high price tag saved her from use in actual radiation areas and dangerous missions where she could face contamination or damage. However experimentation with Robin provided the basis for many future robotic systems used and developed at the Savannah River Site. 

   “It is interesting that Robin pre-dates the EM program,” said Rod Rimando, director of the EM Office of Technology Development. “The need to do work remotely because of hazards like ionizing radiation was recognized well before we started our cleanup efforts. Yet here we are, nearly 30 years since our (EM) program began in 1989, and robotics is still regarded by many as a new technology. At WM2018, where robotics is the featured technology, I hope that mindset changes.”