University of Adelaide built a robot spider to scan Australia’s Naracoorte Caves

It crawls to limit lessen the impact on the World Heritage Site.

Matthew King

In the southeast of South Australia lie the Naracoorte Caves. The national park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stalactites, stalagmites and prehistoric fossils. Recently, a group of students from the University of Adelaide built a robot to complete a 3D scan of the site. The project, called CaveX, saw the group create 15 iterations of the model you see above before they settled on a final design. They went with a robot that walks on a set of six legs out of a fear that one with treads or wheels would damage the surface of the caves. The design also allowed it to traverse uneven terrain with a variety of different gaits.

CaveX scan
Matthew King

As for the 3D scans, the hope is that they’ll lead to new discoveries at the site. "We're looking at the cave surface to find new cave entrances which will hopefully lead to new fossil deposits," Craig Williams, one of the PhD students who worked on the project, told ABC Australia. "That will help us enhance the range of knowledge on the fossils that are here." The team that worked on the project hopes a new generation of engineering students will continue to work on the robot. One day, they'd like to see it take advantage of technologies like computer vision AI to make it better at its job.

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