Tri-Star IV has three wheels. The arm that supports the left and right wheels rotates at the base, enabling the robot to get up if it falls over. It can also maintain a stable posture when moving on a slope.
“There’s going to be a project to collect rock samples from the moon and bring them back to Earth. This robot was developed to help with that. We’ve made repeated improvements to it so far. The Moon has very fine sand, called regolith. But, this robot can move around easily even on sandy or rocky terrain.”
This robot doesn’t use tracks; instead, it has special tires made of sheet metal and canvas. They prevent the robot from sinking into sand, and also give it the mobility to get over obstacles easily.
“On sandy terrain, ordinary wheels sink in and get stuck. So to distribute the load as far as possible, we’ve enabled the wheels to deform, while delivering a high thrust. Even though it’s on wheels, this robot is supported by a large area, in the same way as if it was running on tracks. That enables it to climb steps easily. Even on uneven ground, the tires can adapt themselves to the terrain, so the robot can keep moving.”
Tri-Star IV not only moves across rough ground like this, but is also easy to clean, because it has such a simple structure. So it could be possible to use this robot to inspect the damaged reactors at Fukushima.
“There’s a lot of rubble strewn around the site. We think the robot could be used to get over it, climb stairs, and approach the reactors.”