Welcome to the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University

CRASAR is a Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Center whose mission is to improve disaster preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery through the development and adoption of robots and related technologies. Its goal is to create a “community of practice” throughout the world for rescue robots that motivates fundamental research, supports technology transfer, and educates students, response professionals, and the public. CRASAR is a dynamic mix of university researchers, industry, and responders.

CRASAR has participated in 15 of the 35 documented deployments of disaster robots throughout the world and have formally analyzed 9 others, providing a comprehensive archive of rescue robots in practice. Our industry partners and funding agencies make a wide range of small land, sea, and air robots available for use by responders at no charge through the Roboticists Without Borders program. Our human-robot crew organization and protocols developed first for UGVs, where studies show a 9 times increase in team performance, and then extended for small UAVs during our flights at Hurricane Katrina has been adopted by Italian and German UAV response teams and was used by the Westinghouse team for the use of the Honeywell T-Hawk at the Fukushima nuclear accident.

CRASAR helps organize and sponsor conferences such as the annual IEEE Safety Security Rescue Robotics conference and workshops such as the recent NSF-JST-NIST Workshop on Rescue Robots.

A good overview of rescue robotics is in Disaster Robotics by Robin Murphy (MIT Press, Amazon, and Kindle) and  Chapter 50 of the award-winning Handbook of Robotics.

Fun facts from “Disaster Robots”:

- All ground, aerial, and marine robots have been teleoperated (like the Mars Rovers) rather than fully autonomous (like a Roomba), primarily because the robots allow the responders to look and act in real-time; there’s always something they need to see or do immediately

- Robots have been at at least 35 events, and actually used at at least 29 (sometimes the robot is too big or not intrinsically safe)

- The biggest technical barrier is the human-robot interaction. Over 50% of the failures (a total of 27 at 13 incidents) have been human error.

- Robots are not used until an average of 6.5 days after a disaster; either an agency has a robot and they use it within 0.5 days or they don’t and it takes 7.5 days to realize a robot would be of use and get it on site

Click here for more information about CRASAR and its activities.

Donate online to CRASAR to support deployments of Roboticists Without Borders!

Recent News From Our Blog

9/11: Thoughts on the Anniversary of the WTC Disaster and First Use of Robots

I am spending the anniversary of 9/11 at the World Bank Headquarters at the World Reconstruction Conference. I was invited to give a talk on how disaster robots can be used for the recovery phase of disasters (as opposed to the search and rescue/response phase). In many ways, it was the kind of talk I had expected to give on the 13th anniversary of the first use of robots for a disaster.  I was able to proudly show  that land, sea, and aerial robots are already being used for recovery efforts. For example, the joint IRS-CRASAR team that fielded marine robots to the 2011 Japanese tsunami helped with the recovery of the region, re-opening the Minami-sanriku fishing port and finding polluting debris in the aquaculture. The decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is likely to go on for decades and robots are essential to the safe and cost-effective work.

But it was also the kind of talk that I hadn’t expected to give because 13 years after the successful use of ground robots, 10 years after marine vehicles, and 9 years after small aerial vehicles, robots still are not routinized into disasters! The responders don’t have them and as best I can tell in 36 disasters where robots have been reported to be used, the robots were borrowed in 35 cases- the agency that needed them didn’t have them.

The past 13 years have continued to show the potential, I believe the next 3 will be where we see the rapid adoption of disaster robotics.

Our respects to the victims, their families, and the responders and my thanks to the great team that John Blitch pulled together for CRASAR’s and the world’s first use of robots.

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