III. Teleoperated Robots

Jeremy Gottlieb: Author
David Leech Anderson: Author

Teleoperated robots are controlled remotely by a human being. The remote control signals can be sent through a wire, through a local wireless system (liike Wi-Fi), over the Internet or by satellite.


The major funding source for teleoperated robots is the federal government -- including both NASA and the military. In the military, there are remote-controlled airplanes (drones) that do surveillence and drop bombs,and there are remote-controlled mobile land robots that carry equipment, shoot weapons, and defuse bombs. NASA has developed robots for use on the moon and other planets. Below are videos of 1) the control center for a teleoperated drone airplane and 2) a mobile NASA K-10 robot.

Drone Controllers

NASA K-10 Robot


Teleoperated robots are probably the most common type of medical robot in use today. These robots are typically controlled by a surgeon or doctor and allow her to perform various tasks and treatments that she would not normally be able to do.

Doctoring at a distance

One of the primary uses of teleoperated medical robots is to allow doctors to interact with and treat patients who may be physically distant from where the doctor is. Combined with the internet, doctors could potentially treat patients on other continents. For example , the Remote Presence line of devices allow a doctor to interact with patients at locations different from the one the doctor is currently in. This allows specialists to consult on cases in locations that may not have the appropriate specialist. This is especially useful for patients that are too sick to travel to where the specialist is. The UBot-5 is a general purpose robot that has been adapted for use in assisting elderly patients by allowing doctors and caregivers to monitor them and to control the robot to perfom some basic tasks.

The RP2


Minimally invasive surgery

Another common use of teleoperated robots is for various types of surgery. In particular, these robots are utilized for what are called minimally invasive surgical procedures. The typical example of a minimally invasive surgery is the arthroscopic surgery, used to repair joints and ligaments damaged by some sort of injury. Another example is laproscopic surgery, which is used to remove small organs such as the spleen or gall bladder. In these surgeries, instead of making incisions, or straight-line cuts on the body, small cuts are made through with the surgical instruments can be inserted. This minimizes both the bleeding that the patient undergoes and the scarring that occurs afterwards.

The robot consists of numerous arms, each of which contains an instrument, such as a camera (so the surgeon can see what she is doing), a suturing tool (to stitch up the wound) and various other grippers and manipulators for moving things around, clamping blood vessels, and the like. The surgeon controls the robot by sitting at a console and looking at a screen showing the surgical site and the various instruments. He then has a series of controls, similar to joysticks, which he moves to send instructions to the operate the robot.

Advanced models not only have internal cameras, but can utilize more advanced scanning technologies like MRI to allow the surgeon to get a real-time view of exactly where in the body the instruments are. This allows the surgeon to have a high level of control over exactly where she is directing the instruments.

Some examples of surgical robots include the NeuroArm robot for assisting in neurological surgeries and the DaVinci surgical robot.