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Robot moves in high risk environment

by Pieter Werner

The Universitat Jaume I (UJI) and the Castelló Provincial Hospital Consortium have been testing a teleoperated mobile omnidirectional terrestrial manipulator robot designed for isolation situations due to infectious or radiological risks. The initial trial involved assessing the robot’s mobility, including navigation in corridors and rooms, door opening, data acquisition for 3D environment reconstruction, and reach with its manipulator arm.

This robotic unit, developed by the IRSLab team at UJI’s Centre for Research in Robotics and Underwater Technologies (CIRTESU), is part of the European H2020 El-Peacetolero project. Originally intended for inspecting plastic pipes in radioactive environments where human intervention is unsafe, the robot is also suited for biohazard situations in hospital settings. It is equipped with an intelligent sensor with artificial intelligence capabilities, 2D and 3D LIDAR systems on its mobile head, and a manipulator arm for patient assistance.

The robot aims to deliver food and medication to patients in isolation due to infectious diseases or those in the Special Hospitalisation Unit for treatments like metabolic therapy and gynaecological brachytherapy. This reduces unnecessary exposure of healthcare staff to infectious or radiological hazards.

Metabolic therapy patients receive radioactive drugs orally or intravenously and stay in specially adapted rooms for two to three days until radiation levels decrease to safe limits. During this period, medical and nursing staff provide remote care, having received training for handling radioactive facilities.

For gynaecological brachytherapy, patients are treated with high-dose radiation targeted at specific tumor volumes, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. These patients must remain isolated during the treatment, which involves periodic irradiation sessions over one to four days.

The adaptation of the robotic system to the hospital environment was part of a doctoral thesis by Amparo Tirado Bou from the Doctoral Programme in Computer Science, supervised by Raúl Marín of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The project also involved contributions from CIRTESU lecturers Pedro J. Sanz and Juan J. Echagüe, Eladio Collado from the Faculty of Health Sciences, and researchers and professionals from the Provincial Hospital.

This initiative is part of the El-Peacetolero project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research.

Photo credit Universitat Jaume I of Castellón (Spain)

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