The death toll for the latest Iranian earthquake appears to be settling in around 300 lives lost- a sad number. Iranian rescue roboticist and colleague Amir Soltanzadeh posted on facebook that most of the victims were in 1 story houses which were easy to search. This is where dogs excel- they can cover large areas, determining if there is a survivor in a house in minutes (or less), whereas a ground robot has no comparable sensors and would have to physically worm through the rubble to visually find a survivor- a process that takes time and energy (as in battery power is limited). 1 story houses are also easier to work with for extrication- a ground robot doesn’t offer much benefit.
Unmanned aerial vehicles may be the best initial choice of robots for disasters that pose extreme scales of distance and area– their first look can help professions prioritize the response and estimate the resources that will be needed. Together with social networking from those on the scene, professionals can get better information must faster.
The Iranian people are in our hearts and prayers and we are all grateful this earthquake was no where as bad as Bam.