Rush uses AGV robots to perform simple tasks, deliver supplies - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Rush uses AGV robots to perform simple tasks, deliver supplies

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Amazon created a real buzz last week when it revealed that it's exploring the use of airborne drones to make same-day deliveries, but the idea of using robots for deliveries isn't entirely new.

Rush University Medical Center uses robots to deliver everything from linens to surgical supplies every day. They are called Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs, and every day, guided by lasers, 22 AGV's at Rush make about 1,000 deliveries--starting at the hospital's loading dock, and ending up a few blocks away, upstairs on hospital floors.

"We moved the loading block about two city blocks from where it used to exist, and really, we came up with the idea to put these in place because we'd seen it in industries outside of health care," says Nisha Lulla with Rush University Medical Center.

And while they're not as flashy as the Amazon drones, the AGVS's can carry up to 1,000 pounds apiece, carefully navigating underground tunnels to avoid collisions.

They can even stop on a dime when it senses something in the way.

Their destinations are programmed on touch screens and on robots give medicine, control room monitor their progress through the hospital is monitored in a central control room.

"The spinning piece on top here is the laser beam, that's picking up then on all the different locations in its travel path, so that it give it then it's travel location," Gordon Adell explains.

A single AGV costs $60,000. They typically carry boxes of linens, medications, and surgical supplies into the hospital, and they're filled with trash on the way out. The future could include meal deliveries.

Rush University Medical Center officials say no jobs were eliminated due to the AGV's and the robots have actually made for a safer workplace.

"The neat thing about this is that it's an ergonomic assist for all our employees," says Adell. "They travel about three blocks total and up a good incline, and the physical demand of this job would not be something that our techs could do without the assistance of the AGV."

Rush University Medical Center believes it's the only hospital in Illinois to be using such a delivery system, there are several others around the country.

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