Jun-ya Nagase, Member, IEEE, Fumika Fukunaga, Keiji Ogawa, and Norihiko Saga, Member, IEEE
Abstract: The number of people with cancer of the large intestine has been increasing steadily. According to the global cancer observatory, its prevalence is second among all cancer types in world statistics over the past five years. Early detection and treatment of diseases by colonoscopy can enable complete recovery. Nevertheless, conventional colonoscopes require extremely high skill of the doctors who use them. Moreover, their invasiveness in the colon is high. Therefore, many robots to facilitate colonoscope-related operations have been developed recently. Unfortunately, no practical system exists which can truly overcome the proven effectiveness and lower costs presented by conventional colonoscopes. We therefore propose a novel autonomous propulsion mechanism for colonoscopy named the “Funicular Flexible Crawler.” It is suitable for propulsion through narrow spaces because it is driven by multiple small diameter crawler units connected to a flexible shaft. Experimentation with a large intestine phantom confirmed that the flexible crawler can run from the rectum to the cecum. As described herein, this propulsion mechanism is applicable for self-traveling colonoscopy.