On hilly terrain, in winding waterways, in muddy swamps – “Chico Mendes” feels at home in even the most inhospitable surroundings. Standing 1.20 meters tall, with four agile legs and outstanding analytical skills, he is perfectly equipped to cope with life in the Amazon’s 370 square kilometre large rain forest. No, this is not an exotic animal, but the latest environmental robot belonging to Brazilian energy firm Petrobras.
In developing “Chico Mendes”, particular attention was paid to making the hybrid robot adapt to the rainforest landscape as much as possible, minimizing any damage to the very nature it is supposed to be protecting. Such specifications posed a particularly difficult challenge in drive technology terms.
“Chico Mendes” has to battle through mud, water and swamps with the help of electric microdrives. This involves eight of maxon motor’s DC motors which, with an exceptionally long service life, deliver a high performance in a tiny space. Apart from the above characteristics, their low energy consumption is another important reason why they were chosen for the Piatam project. The environmental robots are driven by solar power in an initial phase. With an efficiency of over 90%, maxon’s motors are ideally suited to this type of application.
Maxon RE 40 motors feature in all four of the robot’s wheels. The wheels are made of fiber glass and measure 66 centimetres in diameter. Another four maxon RE 35 motors are housed in the adaptive suspension, and automatically adapt to conditions depending on the terrain and water conditions in the rain forest. Two planetary gearheads, measuring 42 and 52 millimeter across, provide the requisite torque for the vehicle which is 1.5 meters long, 2.2 meters wide and 1.2 meters high.
The environmental robot's high dynamism requires equally dynamic electronics to control the DC motors. All operating DC motors can be accurately controlled using maxon motor's digital positioning controller EPOS 70/10. EPOS stands for “easy-to-use positioning system”. All EPOS controllers can be networked according to CANopen standards. The robot’s drives are programmed according to IEC 61131-3 standard using a simple software tool with graphic user interface.