Unmanned Systems Technology 033 l SubSeaSail Gen6 USSV l Servo actuators focus l UAVs insight l Farnborough 2020 update l Transforma XDBOT l Strange Development REVolution l Radio telemetry focus

61 On February 7, however, Singapore’s national coronavirus alert level was raised, from a ‘yellow’ to an ‘orange’ rating. That spurred the directors of the country’s National Robotics Program to call together industry leaders and academics, to discuss what the robotics community could contribute to the fight against the pandemic. “China had experienced rises in cases earlier than Singapore, and we knew it had used robots and UAVs for various tasks during the lockdown there,” says I-Ming Chen, CEO of Transforma Robotics and a professor at NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “I discussed with some colleagues and staff how we could build a vehicle that would help. “That discussion included several other NTU spin-outs, from areas such as medical robotics, AI for computer vision, AI for grasping and picking up objects, and teleoperations, as well as some industry partners.” The bulk of the project’s development (including hardware and software design) and organisation was carried out by Transforma, with ‘pick-and-place’ logistics start-up Hand Plus Robotics providing the AI vision for the spray arm, and Maju Robotics providing the robot’s interfacing and teleoperations systems. Prof Chen and his team then drew up a six-week development roadmap for a robotic disinfection vehicle. That time frame was chosen to ensure that an effective system could be produced quickly enough to make a positive contribution to Singapore’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “We knew there were other ways of designing a robot for fighting the coronavirus,” Prof Chen says. “For example, there are some out there that emit UV light, and others that produce an ambient fog of disinfectant rather than spraying in a targeted cone, but we had designed another UGV for construction spraying, which gave us a head-start for development. “Furthermore, information we gathered during talks with Singapore’s hospitals showed that a lot of traffic in them comes from people constantly cleaning walls and furniture. That slows down the movement of medical staff, and means more potential disease-carriers moving in and out of the hospitals. “There is huge potential for disinfection robots to cut down on both of these problems, and on top of that, robots can’t get sick so they won’t be affected by the ongoing shortages of PPE [personal protective equipment]. However, existing robots aren’t designed to meet the required hospital protocols on cleaning equipment.” Transforma’s UGV would therefore need to be capable of pointing and spraying in a wide arc, as well as concentrating its spraying efforts on what hospitals call ‘high-frequency touch surfaces’, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons and handrails. Compared with human cleaners, existing robots achieve insufficient coverage, poor precision and therefore very little effective cleaning of such surfaces, with most of their droplets falling uselessly to the floor after being sprayed. With these problems established, Transforma drew from its existing portfolio of projects for the XDBOT’s Transforma Robotics XDBOT | Digest Unmanned Systems Technology | August/September 2020 The first XDBOT prototype was developed and trialled in six weeks, following an increased pandemic alert in Singapore