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Robot Apocalypse Inches Closer as Machines Learn To Install Solar Panels

Not contented with the prospects of a mechano-libertarian post-apocalyptic wasteland, scientists are working on robots that can harness energy

(Sean Douglas)

Robots can run, they can fly, they can swim, and they can feed on the corpses of plant and animal alike. Clever (evil?) engineers have been designing ways for robots to power themselves, independent of us pesky flesh-bags, for years. But so far, each of these self-fueling automatons has had to go it alone.

Not contented with the prospects of a mechano-libertarian post-singularity (apocalypse?) utopia (wasteland?), scientists are working on robots that can harness energy on a massive scale, says Kevin Bullis at Technology Review.

Companies such as PV Kraftwerker and Gehrlicher in Germany are developing mobile robots that can automatically install ground-mounted solar panels day and night, in all sorts of weather. PV Kraftwerker’s robot is designed to assemble power-plant-grade solar panels, which are four times the size of the ones you’d see on a home.

For now the robots still need human assistants to install the solar panel frames and carry out the last few steps (like screwing in the installed panels and plugging in wires). “Yet,” says Bullis, ”robotic installation may become more common as other components get adapted to automation. PV Kraftwerker and other companies are also developing robots that, guided by GPS, can pound poles into the ground and then mount panels on them, eliminating the need for workers to install frames.”

At least our impending robot overlords will keep a low carbon footprint.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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