Archive for May, 2013

Drone Adventures Uses UAVs to Help Make the World a Better Place

Drone Adventures was founded earlier this year to find ways of “promoting the great potential of drones in civilian applications, focusing on conservation, humanitarian, cultural and search and rescue domains.” Drones are built to help us, and these guys are trying to find ways to do this, they just returned from a trip to help map Haiti.
Here is a link to the full article at IEEE Spectrum .

Washington state bridge collapsed when a truck’s cargo seemed to hit a support girder

An 18-wheeler carrying an oversize load struck part of the Interstate 5 bridge over Washington’s Skagit River. This hit caused to pavement to give way, causing two other vehicles to plunge into the water. Only one of the three people involved remained hospitalized Friday. That lady was in stable condition, according to Skagit Valley Hospital.
Here is a link to the full article at CNN .

UAVs and the Moore Tornado: response to CNN blog

CNN has a nice blog post on the UAVs that weren’t used at Moore.  Here are my comments:

Small UAVs have been used at 11 disasters internationally. The first use of small UAVs was in the US by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, which I direct, during Hurricane Katrina as part of the Florida State Emergency Response Team. We have been advising on the use and procedures for getting permissions for the tornado response, as flying even a small UAV requires coordination with the other activity- hence the no fly zone. The FAA has had an emergency COA process for years, though we find many agencies and industries are not aware of it. We are happy to assist agencies and industries in adopting and deploying unmanned systems of any kind.

OKC Tornado– unmanned systems not the best fit, here’s why

Our hearts go out to the victims and the responders in Oklahoma. We have been working with the FEMA Innovation Team from shortly after the devastation occurred, however aerial and ground unmanned systems are not a good fit for this situation.

In terms of UAVs: There’s already aerial coverage from manned assets and it does not appear that multistory commercial buildings are heavily damaged. Two-story houses and apartment buildings and “strip malls” are well understood failures so additional aerial views are generally not needed to provide more information. If UAVs were available to the first responders, then they would be a much less expensive source of aerial information than manned helicopters or exploiting news helicopters. UAVs provide the ability to serve as wireless nodes (indeed, a big shout out to Roboticists Without Borders member Black Swift Technologies for their work with that) but the coordination with air traffic control and manned assets plus the deployment of COWs (cellular towers on wheels) means that if there weren’t available immediately, they are less likely to be of benefit.
In terms of UGVs: This is a wide affected area with “shallow” debris versus a big building collapse. Canines are the quickest way to locate any survivors that aren’t shouting or aren’t on the surface of the debris. You don’t need the UGV to penetrate the debris further than what a search camera can go to help find survivors or speed extrication.
In terms of UMVs: If there are lakes and streams, marine vehicles might be useful in searching for missing person who may have been swept into a pond and drowned.
We continue to stand by to provide assistance as needed.

Shrewbot Uses Whiskers to Map Its Environment

A new robot was shown off at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) called the Shrewbot, which is modeled after the Etruscan pygmy shrew. This robot uses its whiskers to map the objects in an area, and does not use any other senors. This research could have robot that go into area with low viability and still be able to map and understand the environment it is working in.
Here is the full aritcle at IEEE Spectrum.

Draganflyer credited with first live save with a search and rescue robot!


Check it out here:

Last night (May 9, 2013), a Draganflyer X4-ES UAV  with the FLIR Tau infrared imager was used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to locate the driver after a car wreck- he had wandered off in the cold. Dragan is a member of our Roboticists Without Borders and has been active in our CBRNE experimentation. The medical personnel said the driver would have had only an hour or two more to survive.  This is the first reported life saved with a Public Safety UAV. Congratulations!

Quadrotor With Tilting Propellers Can Twist in Midair

This new quadrotor has 8 independent controls that control the velocity and the angle of all the rotors. One of the new capabilities that could be useful is the fact that if you had a camera that could not tilt you still could get that view by tilting the entire quadrotot giving you better control over what you can see. The quadrotor is still in prototype phase, but this robot could have interesting applications for scanning and seeing disaster areas better.
Here is the link to the full article at IEEE Spectrum .