A group of young entrepreneurs have created a robot that aims to end the dangerous and often deadly practice of sending laborers into sewers. The practice has been the focal point of safety groups that warn against laborers entering the sewer systems.
Laborers enter sewer systems in India to perform drain cleaning, which is often the result of pipes being clogged with feces. The practice kills several laborers annually. Activist groups claim that tens of thousands of people are involved in the work.
The entrepreneurs, from Kerala, have developed a robot that will remove the clogs. The group claims that the Kerala Water Authority has already put in an order to purchase 50 robots.
The robots, called Bandicoots, are part of the Genrobotics startup. The group behind the robots claim that the robots can perform the work of three workers in 30 minutes compared to three hours. The startup has received a patent for their design and expects to have a worldwide patent that will cover 150 countries.
India has banned the practice, often performed by low-caste community members, but the practice is still widely used.
The practice, according to activist groups, leads to the abuse and prejudice against low-caste people. Estimates suggest the practice, better known as “manual scavenging,” has killed 1,200 people between 2014 and 2016 in India.
Bandicoot is a solution that is designed to end the practice. The company has plans to go global, but the founders claim that their first goal before going global is to clean up the problems in India.
Vimal Govind, the company’s 24-year-old CEO, claims that he is working on the project with nine classmates. The group of engineers, all attending the MES Engineering College in Kuttipuram, created the first prototype in just six months, according to Govind.
The startup struggled to find financial backers to help bring the prototype to the masses.
The group claims that the machine costs $5,000 to manufacture and weighs 176 pounds. A camera is carried into the sewer using a wire that will send pictures back to the surface to help determine the source of the platform. The photos are sent to a screen above the sewer.
Bandicoot is installed on top of the clogged sewer line before its deployed into the piping system.
The robot will then dismantle itself from the main component. Bandicoot will then go into the hole and use a shovel or jet pipe to clear the clog and clear the sewer system.
“I worked more than one year in the TCS to earn some money to fund the stage one of the project. We all nine classmates of MES Engineering College in Kuttipuram came around quickly and developed the first prototype in six months,” states Rashid K, a software engineer.
The company’s initial funding problems have been resolved, with the company stating that money is now pouring in from numerous sources.
The idea to create Bandicoot came after three sewage workers, outside of Bangalore, were killed. The group of entrepreneurs started to think of ways to solve the problem and reduce the number of deaths in India as a result.