Quadruped Robot Trialled in Community Isolation Facility to Meet Epidemic Challenges

Amid the onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic, the HKSAR Government has built a number of temporary isolation facilities with the assistance of the Central Government to effectively isolate and treat patients and their close contacts. To reduce social contact in the isolation facilities, the EMSD and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) jointly developed a quadruped robot and have been running the first pilot project to use the robot for delivering supplies to persons under quarantine in the community isolation facility (CIF) at Ma Sik Road, Fanling since mid-March 2022.

Unlike traditional robots, the quadruped robot has a physical appearance resembling that of animals, and moves with four limbs. It can adapt to different environments and move effortlessly on various terrains, such as climbing stairs, mounting slopes and walking on grass. The quadruped robot has a storage box on its back and can carry a weight up to 20 kg. Operators only need to enter route commands, and the robot will automatically walk, detect and avoid obstacles when it delivers daily supplies, including rapid antigen test kits or other daily necessities, etc., from warehouses in the staff area to the doorstep of the rooms in the isolated area for persons under quarantine to easily pick up their supplies themselves. Operators can also monitor the robot's operational status and give commands remotely to ensure smooth delivery. In the whole process of delivery, the staff would not come into direct contact with the persons under quarantine, reducing the risk of infection of the staff. In addition, the EMSD has specifically designed a disinfection device using ultraviolet-C and ozone to disinfect the robot after delivery to avoid its contamination. The robot will automatically enter the device as commanded and manual disinfection is not needed.

Due to the large number of workers moving around and obstacles in the CIF, we had to adjust the programme of the quadruped robot during its development, and conduct numerous field tests and adjustments before putting it on trial. Dr. Hui Chun-wai, Senior Superintendent of Police, the HKPF stated that this was the first time a quadruped robot was used to deliver supplies in a CIF, and it was hoped that the new helper would reduce the risk of infection and enhance efficiency. The EMSD will continue to work with various sectors of the community and proactively employ innovation and technology (I&T) solutions in the works against the epidemic.