update: the death toll is climbing to horrific numbers and the team is all sending our thoughts and prayers for the victims and to our colleagues who must be so worried about their families.
Ironically, the leading researchers from Japan in rescue robotics led by Dr. Satoshi Tadakoro of the International Rescue Systems Institute are here in the USA for the JST-RESPONDR exercise and workshop that CRASAR organized. They were heading back this morning, but now with more urgency. They have tentatively requested our assistance from our Roboticists Without Borders program, but we are waiting for the required formal request.
The types of robots that based on the exercises and past experience that would be of use include: small Unmanned Aerial Systems to survey damage, particularly from the sides and looking in, snake UGVs (Dr. Howie Choset’s snake was the star of the exercises here and has been used for archeological exploration in Egypt), and underwater ROVs for inspection (Dr. Eric Steimle has had significant experience leading our efforts at Hurricanes Wilma and Ike), and tether-based UGVs (our standard cache).