Subterranean robots are designed to investigate and map the areas below the surface of the earth, such as abandoned coal mines or cave systems that are too difficult and/or dangerous for humans to explore. These robots are mobile, flexible and equipped with cameras and other sensors that can detect variables such as gases, chemicals, distances and different rock strata. They are able to output data that enables the production of good quality maps and models of the territory they investigate. Many of these robots have 360 degree scanning systems for avoiding obstacles, planning their movement and mapping terrain.

The variety of sensors featured on these robots enable them to handle different types of earth structures and conditions. Laser sensors are valuable in collecting data for range, contours and mapping; radar enables the robot to operate in conditions that are filled with dust or heavy fog; sonar works well when areas are filled with water.

A human operator using a visual image of the area in which the robot is working, fed from the robot’s camera, can guide it. If the operator wants to make changes to the robot’s course that could not be anticipated because there was no previous knowledge of the area, these can be made by remote and avoid having to make the robot return to the base site.


1       What does subterranean mean?

2       Why would these robots carry small cameras and storage hardware?

3       What is a sensor?

4       Name some of the different sensors these robots carry.

5       Why is it necessary for subterranean robots to have more than one type of sensor?

6       How can you tell that these robots are adaptive?

7       When would feedback from the environment be valuable to such robots?

8       How could subterranean robots assist with gathering data for a mine rescue after a cave-in?

9       What would be the advantages of using a robot rather than a human in these situations?

10       How does these robots’ ability to transmit data back to a base computer and the operator in real time improve this system?