Bionic gloves, exoskeletons, drones… RATP bets on new technologies

07:00, June 1, 2022

Bionic glove, passive exoskeleton, plug-in goggles, load-reducing backpack… The second oldest subway in the world — after London — loves to play Back to the Future. The RATP Group is even proud that “for the better” in this area, following the example of aeronautics (Airbus) or the automotive industry, and even some players in the construction industry. “We are rather ahead of the public transport operator”, says Com Berben, director of innovation on the board of directors. At VivaTech 2022*, the public company will showcase several innovations it is experimenting with, such as autonomous buses or the Perceval robotic track monitoring dog.

JDD was able to view several of these futuristic objects to be deployed in the field, in repair shops, rolling stock, infrastructure, tracks, tunnels or logistics depots. “These innovations are designed to improve the daily lives of our agents by making their work easier and accelerate our industry leadership,” clarifies Kom Burben. Nicholas Stivers, Head of the Robotics and New Technologies Physical Assistance Program (NTAP), responsible for finding new products and adapting them to the needs of the RATP, adds: “We are under constant control. In general, since inventions are immature, we act as a testing ground for suppliers. »

Such is the case with the internal Flyability drone designed to inspect the metal beams that support the tunnels. Surrounded by a cage – to protect it from hitting walls – equipped with projectors and cameras, the flying object is controlled by an agent who no longer needs a ladder or gondola to detect cracks or traces of moisture on objects. “It took three days to test three beams at height; a quarter of an hour is enough with this drone”boasts Nicholas Stivers.

Connected glasses full of sensors

To make things easier for maintenance personnel, management also relies on the Ironhand bionic glove from the Swedish company Bioservo. Consisting of fingertip sensors connected to a small motor and a remote control to adjust power, this glove increases hand strength tenfold with motorized assistance. “It is very useful for repetitive operations, machining or tightening, emphasizes the director of innovation. We work closely with occupational health professionals and ergonomists to ensure that the problem is not transferred from the forearm to the shoulder or back. » The researched Ironhand will be tested in situ in 2022.

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As for the Ellcie Healthy plug-in glasses, they notify the isolated worker in case of falling asleep or losing vigilance. They are equipped with sensors that measure temperature, blood pressure, eye and head movements in real time. As soon as an anomaly is detected, they vibrate, the diodes light up and flash either green or red. “If the agent loses consciousness, the goggles detect the lack of movement and send a message to the central one,” describes the NTAP program manager.

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The GraviPack, on the other hand, allows you not to feel the load being carried, such as a toolbox, thanks to carefully thought-out weight distribution. Shoulder straps are equipped with carbon inserts that free the shoulders, unload the neck and back. This French bag in the professional version costs 500 euros. In the same way, a passive exoskeleton from the German company Ottobock makes it easier to work with equipment at a height mechanically, without a motor. Its lightweight frame, secured with back and arm straps, accompanies the operator’s movements and reduces effort. RATP has already tested it on Lilas bus station agents. It is currently undergoing trials in tram maintenance shops and RER A (Sucy, Torcy, Rueil). In the end, they could equip a hundred employees. On the way to the future.

* VivaTech, European New Technology Exhibition at Paris Expo in Porte de Versailles (15th place), June 15-18.