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Survey reveals key role for robotics in tackling COVID-19 and future pandemics

22 June, 2020

One in three UK adults see a key role for the use of robotics in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and future pandemics, recent research has highlighted. The public poll, commissioned by the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network, which has been released as part of the annual UK Robotics Week, which returns for its fifth year from 22nd – 28th June 2020. 



Thirty six percent of a representative sample of UK adults believe that robotics technology could help to ramp up the manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), while 33% feel that robot deliveries and the use of Unattended Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could aid social distancing during public health crises such as the current global pandemic1. 28% of those polled also think that robotics could play a vital role in automating the cleaning and disinfecting of public places.



The survey reports that the manufacturing sector tops the list of industries in which people think robotics are most useful, highlighted by 42% of respondents, ahead of logistics (30%) and military and defence (20%). While just under a fifth of those polled (17%) indicated that robotics should be most used in the medical sector, the medical field is also where most people (38%) expect to see the most rapid advancements in the next 12 months.

A surge in robotics innovation is also anticipated by the UK public in 3D printing (34%), logistics (30%) and in the household (29%).

Other key findings from the research include:



• Almost one in five (19%) UK adults think that robotics should replace people doing physical work.

• While 56% of people have stayed as trusting since last year towards robotics, 16% of people have become more trusting.

Professor Robert Richardson, chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, commented: “These findings from our latest survey into attitudes towards robotics show that the public is taking a real interest in how robotics technology is developing, and the benefits of using robots across a gamut of sectors. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen examples of specific tasks that robots are able to carry out while removing humans from risk – including disinfecting spaces and transporting medical supplies and food around hospitals – and UK Robotics Week offers a fantastic opportunity to explore how robotic systems can both contribute to our everyday life and work, and also help us prepare for and adapt to unexpected events.”



UK Robotics Week is organised annually by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, which was founded in 2015 to bring cohesion to the robotics and autonomous systems research base, enhance capital facilities across the country, and support education programmes and public engagement activities.

This year’s programme is showcasing the state-of-the-art in robotics systems research and development and includes prestigious academic challenges and engaging school competitions. New for this year is the Medical Robotics for Contagious Diseases Challenge, which invites the leading robotics research teams from across the world to submit innovative ideas that could offer solutions as part of a multi-faceted response to the current COVID-19 health crisis and future global pandemics.



For full information about all the activities planned for UK Robotics Week, please visit the website: https://www.ukras.org/robotics-week

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