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Kerala will soon replace humans by deploying robots to clean manholes

The project is supported by KWA, which has joined hands with Kerala start up mission to transform new ideas into practical technologies for addressing issues relating to pipe leakage and sanitation

Press Trust of India  |  Thiruvananthapuram 

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In a first in Kerala, the will soon be utilising the services of Robots to clean sewer holes.

The trial runs of the robot, developed by a startup company, Genrobotics, have been successfully held recently and the product will be launched next week, Water Authority (KWA) Managing Director, A said.

"The government is very excited with the project," told

The robot, equipped with Wi-Fi, and control panels has four limbs and a bucket system attached to a to scoop out the waste from sewers.

The project is supported by KWA, which has joined hands with start up mission to transform new ideas into practical technologies for addressing issues relating to pipe leakage and

"Our intention is to promote local talent. Now the product, being fully funded by the government, is ready and it will be launched next week," she said.

Initially, the services of the robot, christened 'Bandicoot' will be utilised in Thiruvananthapuram, which has over 5,000 manholes.

The trial run of the robot, developed by the nine-member group of youngsters from varying engineering streams, had been conducted successfully in the state capital recently, of Genrobotics, Vimal Govind said.

The youngsters have given up their steady jobs to find a solution to end manual scavenging in an effort to bring in some resemblance of dignity to the lives of these 'invisible' men who are paid a pittance between Rs 300-500 for their effort running into several hours.

According to Govind during the trials held near the Medical college here, about 30 kg of garbage was pulled out by the robot and they were shocked to find sanitary napkins, clothes, surgical blades among other stuff in the clogged manholes.

Within an hour, the robot could clean four manholes on the first day itself with ease and it did not face any problem to manoeuvre its way to different types of manholes.

"This will be a life changing opportunity for the cleaning men.. their life will become better.. Though happy with the product, they are apprehensive if they will lose their source of livelihood," he said.

However, there was no cause for any worry says Rashid K as their plan was to train existing workers to operate the robot, which was as easy to handle as a

All the commands in the user interface was now in English.

But this can be converted to any local language for easy understanding of the scavengers, he said.

The team took 7-8 months to design the semi automatic robot.

An MOU has already been signed between the Kerala Water Innovation Zone under the KWA and (KSUM) for transfer of technology.

'Attukal Pongala' on March 2 will be the litmus test for the 'Bandicoot' which will commence its operations by cleaning sewer holes in the city during the festival when lakhs of women from all over the country will converge here to offer Pongala to the diety.

Enquiries relating to the Robot have come in from neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, and besides from countries like and UK.

The team has also been invited to attend consultative workshop on Solid Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) on Feb 22, 23 at Delhi, which is a initiative of Swachh Bharat to introduce the Robot.

Founded in 2015, was initially focusing on powered exoskeletons which are robotic suits that can help humans to reduce physical effort needed in heavy jobs.

The robot is powered by pneumatics (using gas or pressurised air) since using inside is risky as they can react with the explosive gases present in the manhole.

Since there are no official figures on the number of people involved in manual scavenging in Kerala, the is planning to undertake a pilot study at Ernakulam or Kozhikode to ascertain the same, sources said.

Based on the outcome of the pilot study, a state-wide survey would be held, the sources added.

First Published: Mon, February 19 2018. 17:14 IST
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