The Roboticists Without Borders members are standing by to assist with Hurricane Irene at no cost.
We’ve been pinging our contacts in the response and emergency management communities to remind them about the uses of robots. I recently presented a paper at AUVSI that analyzed the 8 known deployments of robots at 7 disasters in 2010– if the incident command agency or company already had robots or an agreement in place, robots were used with 0.5 days. If not, it was an average of 7.5 days before the robots were used (land, marine, or air– that wasn’t a factor), well beyond the critical life saving first few days. 10 years after the successful use at 9/11, robots still haven’t been integrated into responses.
For a hurricane, as with a small earthquake or tornado, UAVs and marine vehicles tend to be of more immediate and impact larger regions than ground robots. That’s because there is usually little damage to large numbers of commercial buildings- instead homes are devastated. But homes create debris fields less than 3m deep, which canines and existing tools work great with and faster than small ground robots. State National Guard teams often fly Predators, but don’t rule out the value of small UAVs hand launched by response teams to get on demand “hummingbird” views of the situation.
New Jersey has two UASI teams with ground robots and I’ve heard they’ve been looking at small UAVs, but I don’t know of any other response agencies in the projected area with rescue robots. Please let me know if there are (we’ll mail you a CRASAR patch for confirmed info).
But regardless, my thoughts on Hurricane Irene comes down to this: I hope that no lives will be lost and damage will be minimal.