Valkyrie Robot Win-Win

An Australian energy company needs to improve safety and efficiency in its offshore and remote operations. NASA needs to learn more about deploying robot workers in hazardous conditions such as might be found on the moon, on Mars…or in distant parts of Australia.

Woodside Energy and NASA are going to work together, with the help of the Valkyrie robot, to meet both goals.

The Valkyrie robot

Taking its name from Norse mythology, the Valkyrie is a bosomy humanoid robot built for the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge. We assume the voluptuous figure was required by the actuators and other technical details, and that the name was inspired by the shape.

Standing 6’2″, the Valkyrie is designed for inhospitable environments. She tips the scales at 300 lbs and cost $2 million to make. NASA describes her as the most advanced humanoid robot ever. She has a multi-sense SL camera in her head, 38 sensors in each three-fingered hand, and a pair of Intel Core i7 computers for a brain.

NASA first thought of her for search and rescue missions, but more recently has determined that she could set up missions on Mars and get the home fires burning in preparation for human colonists.

The Woodside challenge

Woodside started in 1954 in liquefied natural gas. In 2022 they merged with BHP Petroleum. Now they are a global energy company with more than 4,000 human workers. They harvest fuel from Louisiana to Senegal, and many of their workplaces are inhospitable or downright hazardous.

Valkyrie will get a chance to do remote-controlled work in some of these places, trying out both software and hardware in preparation for space adventures.

“These demonstrations will evaluate the current potential of advanced robots to extend the reach of humans and help humanity explore and work safely anywhere,” say her makers.

Previous practice with Valkyrie has been in the context of competitions in simulated space conditions.

It’s great to see this kind of collaboration. Letting robots do something valuable for the community as part of testing and training is a great idea.

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