Giving a robot a chainsaw sounds like just about the most unsafest thing mankind could ever do. But in this case, ironically, it's actually making things safer for humans since this robot is designed to autonomously climb and prune very tall trees.
Developed by researchers at the University of Gifu in Japan, the 13kg robot uses its own weight to support itself against the tree. So even if it completely loses power, it's not going to come crashing to the ground. The bot can climb trees up to almost 30cm in diameter, and using a vertically mounted chainsaw that makes a lap around the tree's circumference, it can clear branches up to 5cm in diameter.
The current version of the robot is being tested in what's called an 'experimental forest' which basically means the trees are the ideal size for climbing, and almost impossibly straight. The real challenge will be tackling a natural forest where the trees aren't only larger, but also twist and bend in every direction -- and that's still a few years away at least. So the lumberjacks of the world don't need to update their resumes anytime soon. [YouTube via IEEE Spectrum]