Last week we wrote about the work Parkhurst resident Ryan Beech and his team have been doing to turn that Joburg suburb into a self-powered smart city complete with energy grid and internet of things platform.

While we were with Ryan, he also showed us the current prototype of his industrial inspection robot, the RMIS Maxi Crawler.

Designed by Beech’s Ryonics company to venture into large pipes and ducts, the Maxi Crawler is equipped with high definition cameras and a laser-powered LIDAR array for spotting flaws in materials used for conduits.

It travels on four legs, each of which has two wheels, and is controlled via a long-range WiFi antenna on its back and an Xbox controller.

The current prototype of the Maxi Crawler.
The current prototype of the Maxi Crawler.

For particularly lengthy pipes – up to two kilometres – Ryonics also supplies a second robot to act as a WiFi repeater for extra range. For distances beyond that, Maxi Crawler has an autonomous mode in which it will inspect pipes and return to its base to download data.

The software interface has been designed by Ryonics, but for the engineer who wants to get close to the action there’s a virtual reality option to track the Maxi Crawler as it goes about its work.

Mini Crawler can be used as an inspection tool for smaller pipes, or as a WiFi relay.
Mini Crawler can be used as an inspection tool for smaller pipes, or as a WiFi relay.

Prototypes have been tested around the country, including with power and mining companies, and Ryonics is currently launching a final version now. At around 21 000 USD dollars (R281 000) it’s not cheap, but Beech reckons that it’s about a third less expensive when compared to buying similar, less rugged, inspection robots from overseas once you factor in import duties.

Ryonics also makes robots for schools. Check ’em out below.

Ryonics' educational robot.
Ryonics’ educational robot.
Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.