Robot to inspect quake-damaged buildings

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 09:24 04/02/2013
Robot
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

WHAT LIES BENEATH: Canterbury University post-graduate student Andre Geldenhuis with his rover robot, which is designed to check under houses for quake damage.

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A small rover robot designed by a University of Canterbury student will save money and make it safer to inspect quake-damaged buildings.

Post-graduate student Andre Geldenhuis, 32, has built a robot designed to carry out under-house pile inspections.

The idea came out because his supervisor did not want to crawl under his house to check his piles.

"It's a practical thing. In Christchurch especially it's pretty unsafe and awful to have to get under the house. This was a solution to that."

If an earthquake occurred while they were under the floor and there was liquefaction, they could drown or the house could collapse.

"What they tend to do instead is pull up the floorboards which is expensive for everybody involved," he said.

"If we get this going it could save a lot of money and make it a lot safer to do inspections."

Geldenhuis said the rover robot used an array of sensors to identify and map the size and extent of cracks and measured damage under a building.

The rover carries a light, a video and still camera. High definition video and still imagery records the condition of piles and other structures beneath houses.

The robot ran off a "simple" program on a laptop, he said.

"The robot can be placed into the under-floor space below houses. It can be controlled using a laptop so that the video feed can be displayed on screen and it is driven with a joystick or a game pad."

The robot would have its pilot run in a couple of weeks, but a prototype had already been trialled.

"It's driven outside but it hasn't gone under a house yet. There's still a little bit of de-bugging to do. It will be great to see it in use."

Geldenhuis, who has a masters degree in physics, will present his findings at a public event on campus on February 8.

He was not aware of any other under-floor rovers in New Zealand.

Geldenhuis' supervisor, Dr Chris Hann, has been working with Dr Richard Parker at Scion on commercial applications of the device.

"It'd be crazy to see it developed. It's always good to see your idea come to fruition," Geldenhuis said.

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- The Press

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