Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Kiwis and especially to our colleagues at the New Zealand Fire Service who have been diligently adopting robotics.
So when a tsunami strikes, what can robots do? As was shown at the 3/11 Japan tsunami, unmanned marine vehicles can accelerate economic recovery by inspecting critical underwater infrastructure
As was shown by our Japan-US deployments at the invitation of two municipalities at the 3/11 Japan tsunami, unmanned marine vehicles (UMV) can assist with the response and accelerate economic recovery by inspecting critical underwater infrastructure- the underwater portions of bridges, ports, and shipping channels that are vital for access by responders and for getting supplies to any cut off populations. Later, the UMVs can help with environmental remediation, finding fishing boats and cars leaking gas and oil into pristine fishing waters and identifying other sources of pollution or dangers to fishing and navigation.
UAVs could be used to assess the overall boundaries of the incident, though most of the damage is near the ground. Like flooding, this is hard to get the angles to accurately assess damage. In places such as New Zealand, the agencies (and news media) generally have enough resources to get a general aerial assessment.