Robot to explore Great Pyramid

Archaeologists will use a small robot to explore a shaft in the Great Pyramid of Giza that has remained sealed for four and a half millennia.

By , TechNewsDaily Staff Writer

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    Archaeologists will use a robot (not pictured) to explore a previously inaccessible shaft in the Great Pyramid of Giza.
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Following in the footsteps of Howard Carter and Abbot and Costello, a specialized robot will penetrate deeper into the Great Pyramid of Giza than ever before. The robot, part of a years-long exploration called the Djedi Project, will explore a shaft inaccessible to a previous robot, unlocking a room that has remain sealed for 4,500 years.

The robot explorer, built by researchers at the Leeds University, England, in collaboration with French aviation company Dessault and British robotics company Scoutek, will incorporate a small fiber optic camera for looking around corners, an ultrasonic probe for testing the quality of the rock and a releasable mini-robot that can fit through spaces as small as 0.7 inches in diameter.

Additionally, the robot uses special nylon and carbon fiber wheels that won't deface the pyramid's sensitive rock.

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"All the robots were designed from scratch to do as little damage to the shafts as possible," Shaun Whitehead, Systems engineer and mission manager, told TechNewsDaily. "The previous robots both used tracks that scrubbed away at the floor and ceiling as they moved. We use soft brace pads to grip the walls, like an inchworm or the technique that rock climbers use for ascending 'chimneys.' The wheels don't need to grip, they need to slip as much as possible."

Whitehead designed the robot so that the team could easily swap out different components, depending on what they find down the shaft. To create the different components, Whitehead and his team used 3-D software provided by Dessault, and then "printed" out the parts on a 3-D fabricator at Leeds University.

The robot will travel down a shaft located in the tomb of the Queen. Unlike the King's tomb, where shafts lead to the outside of the Great Pyramid so his soul could escape into the afterlife, the shafts leading from the Queen's tomb borrow deeper into the pyramid.

This is the third time a robot has tried to find the end of the Queen's tomb shaft. The first expedition found that a giant stone door blocked the tunnel, and the second robot discovered another door behind that one. With its microbot and drill, the Leeds University researchers designed this new robot specifically to breach those obstacles.

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