Team Develops Robotic Arm That Can Roll Into Hazardous Environments To Give Medical Help When Doctors Can’t

University of Sheffield

A groundbreaking robotic medical system has emerged with the potential to save lives in radiation zones that are too dangerous for doctors and nurses to operate.

Human medics have the ability to control the vehicle remotely, using the robot’s arms to check a patient’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, and even administer injections.

According to the University of Sheffield team that developed it, this “game-changing” technology, as it’s being called, has the potential to save lives in high-risk emergency environments, like humanitarian disasters or war zones. Incredibly, this first-of-its-kind system was developed in just a span of nine short months.

Employing cutting-edge medical telexistence (MediTel) technology, researchers from the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Sheffield Robotics, and Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering have given birth to a mobile, robotically controlled uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV).
Notably, it incorporates virtual reality (VR) capabilities, enabling medics and operators to assess critical casualties in hazardous environments while ensuring their own safety.

The robotic system boasts of two robotic arms with the capability to remotely operate medical instruments, conducting a crucial initial assessment of a casualty within a mere 20 minutes.

This assessment includes temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate checks. Moreover, it can perform an abdominal palpation and provide pain relief via an auto-injector, all while streaming real-time data to the remote operator. The system’s versatility and efficiency make it a valuable tool in high-risk scenarios.

You can see more in the video posted below.

Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering

Head of Digital Design at the AMRC, David King, said, “Developing and field testing a state-of-the-art, complex system such as MediTel in just nine months has been an incredible achievement and a testament to the skills and capabilities of the entire project team.”

“MediTel combined existing medical devices with state-of-the-art robotics systems to develop a platform capable of allowing a remote operator to navigate through difficult terrain and provide critical diagnoses of high-risk casualties,” he adds.

Director of Sheffield Robotics, Professor Sanja Dogramadzi, also shared, “This platform could be used by multiple emergency response services.”

In addition, they will also integrate other sensor modalities to help with patient triage.

The development of MediTel received funding through a £2.3 million innovation competition from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, supporting three novel telexistence technologies.

Technical lead at Dstl, Dr. Nicky Armstrong, said, “The project has enabled us to demonstrate the art of the possible to end users, so that we can better understand where telexistence could add value to defense and security environments.”

The University of Sheffield’s team envisions building upon the success of this project, exploring the creation of a large-scale medical emergency platform capable of rapid deployment to address humanitarian disasters.