As humans continue to explore other planets, they want to know not only what happens to them, but also what is like to them. That’s what the Mole robot does — it’s a robot that can walk through the ground autonomously. Mole-bot was developed by the Korea Institute of Advanced Science and Technology (KAIST) and was inspired by the European Mole and the African Mole. The latter digs tunnels by biting the ground with its strong front teeth, while the former pushes the shedding soil back behind itself with its powerful forelimbs.
The Mole robot has no real Mole-like teeth in front of it, but a propeller-like retractable drill. As it rotates to grind into the soil, its folding jagged blades extend outwards, digging a tunnel wider than the robot’s cylindrical body. Instead of using the forelimbs, the robot uses two extendable hinged metal flanges on both sides of the drill to push the loose soil back from its front. The drills and the flanges work alternately so that they do not interfere with each other.
The three caterpillar-like tracks at the rear push the Mole robot forward, plus a rotating mechanical “waist” in the middle, allowing it to change direction while digging the tunnel. It is able to locate using 3D synchronous positioning and mapping (SLAM) technology, which continuously tracks the robot’s position relative to the Earth’s magnetic field.
In addition to its use on other planets, the Mole robot may also be used in the mining industry. It is said to be cheaper, less labor-intensive and more environmentally friendly than existing drilling systems because it does not require mud compounds to clean up debris. The current prototype is the third version of the robot, 84 cm long, 25 cm wide and 26 kg in weight.