Manual scavenging – in cities, often visible as manhole cleaning – is considered one of the worst professions in the world, and with good reason. Not only are the working and living conditions of scavengers appalling, they also have dire consequences on their health and livelihood. In India, four or five people die on the job every month; most manual scavengers don’t live beyond the age of 30. For them and their families, social oppression and extreme exclusion have been long-standing issues.
The winner GenRobotics’ innovation is a robot called ‘Bandicoot’ that cleans manholes remotely using robotic arms and computer vision. It uses pneumatic and electric actuators, infrared cameras, sensors and Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composites (CFRP). This robot can do all the tasks that a man can inside the manhole, is remotely operated and can clean up to ten manholes a day. Manual scavengers will not lose their jobs as they are being rehabilitated to become robot operators and get employed in the high technology sector, thus giving back to them and their future generations, dignity.