Heavy-Duty Robots are an ubiquitous type of robot in the Frontier, in use in most construction, mining and agricultural industries. In many ways, heavy-duty robots are simply larger maintenance robots used in large-scale industry.
Heavy duty robots do heavy work in construction, serving as excavators, cranes, trenchers, dozers, movers, transports, and drills; in agriculture, they work as tractors, harvesters, plows, spreaders, cultivators and even cropdusters; in public works, they work as streetsweepers, snowplows, tractors, fire engines, bridgelayers, tug/tractors, self-propelled power generators, and fork/basket lifts.
It should be noted that, while Robot Brains often are essentially smarter versions of heavy duty robots, they are distinct enough to warrant their own article.
Heavy duty robots often work with maintenance robots, which service and maintain the larger units.
Heavy-duty robots are rarely designated as such; instead being named for their primary function (i.e. Construction bot, Combine bot, Tractor bot, etc.).
Robots of this type use heavy-duty bodies and are limited to levels 1 to 4. Most are about the size of a ground car and weigh about 500 kg (without a parabattery). A heavy duty robot has 500 Stamina points, and is powered by a Type 2 Parabattery.
Since they are usually designed to be used outdoors, most use a tracked motive system, with wheeled models coming in a close second; vectored thrust “rocket” and rotor movement modes share third place in commonality, with hover and legged movement modes coming in last.
Body shape follows function; box-like or drum-like units are common, but the vast majority of heavy-duty bots are indistinguishable from vehicles, except (in high level models) for a lack of driver/operator accommodation.
All commercially available maintenance robots come equipped with one pair of heavy-duty all-purpose manipulative limbs (i.e. “arms”) that commonly do not fold into the body. Depending on robot level and function, these limbs may be anything from simple grasping clamps to dedicated built-in tools. Additional pairs of heavy-duty limbs are mounted, depending on the unit’s function. On some higher-level models, standard-sized limbs with specialized tools or fully functional “hands” are added.
Most models come with attachment points for additional limbs, but these invariably cost extra, particularly since additional limbs are most often specialized to fulfill the mission of the robot.
Description by Level
Heavy-duty robots are limited to levels 1 to 4; this is because level 5 and higher robots are generally too sophisticated for such manual labor; custom units may exist, but these are extraordinarily uncommon and used under the most specialized of circumstances.
Level 1 heavy-duty robots can do only simple jobs. They are pre-programmed for some specific job and usually cannot do any other job. This programming is done by a roboticist or through a physical connection to a computer with the Robot Management program (this does not allow the computer to control the robot; it only provides basic programming) and either the Maintenance, Industry or Transportation programs, depending on the Mission and Functions of the robot.
Though they cannot communicate in any meaningful way, Level 1 robots may use pre-recorded messages to indicate current status (“Initiating”, “Low Power”, “Maintenance Routine Complete”) or warnings of approach (“WARNING, HEAVY UNIT, WARNING”). Most heavy-duty ‘bots have a simple interface menu pad (commonly behind a panel) so that users may interact in a basic way with the robot, telling it, for example to delay activation for a few hours or to immediately begin functions programmed for a later time.
Level 1 heavy-duty robots have basic visual and auditory sensors and are capable of detecting obstacles in their path and react accordingly, for example, stopping before large objects, requesting people to move out of the way (though usually a big, flashing yellow light serves as enough warning) or, if the objects are small enough, move them out of the way.
Examples of Level 1 Heavy-Duty Robots:
- A robot that excavates a tunnel through rock in the manner desired
- A robot that sweeps and vacuums streets in a pre-programmed manner at times of low or non-existent traffic.
- A “helper” unit slaved to a higher-level unit to provide additional traction or power.
- An agricultural robot that sprays crops with water, nutrients and pesticides on a pre-programmed schedule.
Level 2 heavy-duty robots are more sophisticated versions of Level 1 ‘bots and can handle several simple jobs or a fairly complicated single one.
Much like Level 1 ‘bots, they can communicate through pre-recorded messages, but have a wider repertoire that can be tailored to a wider array of situations. Additionally, a computer (or computer user) or a Robot Brain may communicate with other beings through the robot’s radio link (as well as “see” through its optical receptors).
Sensors are more capable in Level 2 units, incorporating sound and basic touch (sometimes smell, to detect gas leaks) and their decision-making ability is marginally better, so instead of stopping in front of a blocking object, if under certain parameters, the robot might go over or around it on its own, without contacting a higher controller.
They can receive and follow radio commands in binary machine language sent from some other machine, such as a robot brain or a computer. Often this means simply that the robot is actually a simple upgrade of a Level 1 Heavy-duty robot capable of being reprogrammed or deployed by its electronic controller. As the difference in cost between a Level 1 and a Level 2 robot is only 300 Cr, most users with access to a computer opt for the Level 2 versions.
Examples of Level 2 Heavy-Duty Robots:
- A robot that excavates a tunnel through multiple types of rock/soil in the manner desired
- A robot that sweeps and vacuums streets in a pre-programmed manner at times of standard traffic.
- An agricultural robot that sprays crops with water, nutrients and pesticides on a flexible schedule based on pre-programmed conditions.
- A robot that puts together chassis/body assemblies at a hovercar factory
- A prospecting excavation robot that tunnels through rock in a pre-programmed route and separates out flecks of gold.
Level 3 heavy-duty robots can do significantly more complicated jobs. Their ability to communicate verbally and follow spoken instructions provides ample opportunity to customize programming on the fly. Of course, if the verbal instructions disagree with the robot’s programming, it will ignore the orders. Like Level 2 robots, Level 3 robots may also be directed by a computer or Robot Brain.
Robots of this level are capable of performing highly complex tasks or many simple ones, but their decision-making capability is severely limited; for example, a road maintenance ‘bot will change street lamp bulbs on schedule or when required by a user or controller, but unless a bulb has gone out, it will not be replaced without user instruction.
Examples of Level 3 Heavy-Duty Robots:
- A Logging ‘bot that harvests trees at a tree farm.
- Building Construction ‘bots that put together prefabricated buildings.
Level 4 heavy-duty robots can act semi-independently. They are much like Level 3 robots, but with superior decision-making ability, for example, a supply delivery ‘bot is summoned verbally by two users at the same time; the level 3 ‘bot will attend each in turn based on the path of its route: the closest one will be attended first, but a level 4 ‘bot may recognize one user as a higher priority and attend her first, even if she is further away. Likewise, a road maintenance ‘bot may inspect all street lamps and replace the bulbs on any that show deterioration, even if still functional or not on schedule.
Examples of Level 4 Heavy-Duty Robots:
- A logger ‘bot that plants, monitors, maintains, and harvests trees.