On the use of construction robots at the Elliot Lake Mall Collapse

Nice article here on the use of mining and construction robots at the mall collapse in Canada. However, the article’s promotion of heavy-duty machinery for search, versus for extrication, may be misplaced.

Our work at 15 disasters since 9/11 and documenting the other known responses strongly indicates that for the search phase, very small agile robots with 2-way audio are desirable. They are small enough to get into the irregular voids or be lowered in through the roof, they are light enough not to cause a secondary collapse, the can move around and get better viewpoints than with a search cam,  inexpensive, and easily transported (from the back of a truck into a backpack…).

A recent example of this is the Hackensack New Jersey Prospect Towers collapse where the NJ Task Force 1 and the UASI teams used Inuktun robots to search for survivors with a couple of hours of the incident. Inuktuns have about a 300 ft long tether, a search cam is usually only to penetrate 18 feet.

Big, heavy gear is certainly of great value for removing rubble, bracing structures, etc. It’s just not the same as small robots for search, finding and interacting with the victim until they are extracted (which can 4-10 hours).

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