TOKYO – Enryu's 15-foot arms are powerful enough to lift a small passenger car, and its hands are almost as dexterous as a human being's.
The 5-ton, 11.5-foot robot may soon be helping communities across Japan reach avalanche sites and clear snow, as the nation struggles to deal with its snowiest winter in decades, said Japanese company Tmsuk Co.
A model tested Thursday in Niigata prefecture, at the heart of Japan's snow country, has two hydraulically operated arms with a reach of 16 feet, each capable of lifting 1,102 pounds, according to company spokesman Shiro Fujita.
In the tests, Enryu successfully lifted a car from deep snow and simulated knocking ice and snow off rooftops with the help of a sophisticated, Fujita said.
Tmsuk originally developed Enryu — or "rescue dragon" in Japanese — as a robot to assist in earthquake rescue operations.
"But after all the problems regions had with snowfall this winter, we decided to test if we could adapt Enryu to handle snow-related disasters," Fujita said.
Record amounts of snowfall in Japan this season has snarled traffic, cut off mountain villages and killed at least 102 in snow-related accidents, according to latest government figures.
Fitted with seven cameras and mounted on a tread similar to a military tank, Enryu can also be operated by remote control to reach hazardous areas, Fujita said.
The Kyushu-based company, which has enlisted the help of a a university robotics research center and several local governments, hopes to unveil a finished version by next year.