A Slithering Robot That Loves the Dirty Work


Snakes typically get kind of a bad rap with their cold-blooded bodies sneaking and slithering around, seemingly looking to cause trouble. However, Salt Lake City-based Sarcos didn’t see danger, but inspiration for the development of their Guardian S inspection robot.

Boldly going where workers don’t want to, the four-foot-long reptilian robot uses magnetic tracks that allow it to inch forward, backward, up, or down on everything from metal walls to oil pipelines. Embedded sensors in its head and tail allow for performing tasks like maintenance inspections and leak detection where it can collect data and send it back to workers safely positioned outside of the area in question. It can even rise up on its hind section like a cobra and take photos, and right itself if it rolls over. And when it’s done, any mud or sludge can simply be washed off with water.

One of the key selling points of the $70,000 robot is that it can keep humans from difficult to access or dangerous industrial settings. Sarcos received some of their funding from GE Ventures, which led to a collection of Guardian S robots being used at GE Aviation factories and power generation facilities that include oil and gas sites as well as wind turbines. In each instance, the robots are used to optimize human involvement, not replace it. Basically, the Guardian S does what snakes do best – slithering into tight, dark, dirty spaces and then gathering the data for humans to analyze.

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