Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Electronic nose to guide search and rescue robots

A robot that can be guided by an electronic nose invented by a postgraduate student could aid search and rescue missions following natural disasters.

During her postgraduate stay at the Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico, Blanca Lorena Villarreal developed a device that allows multiple robotic platforms to follow the path of certain odors.

The olfactory system is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that enable the detection of the scent of alcohol, but with some modifications to the system and the algorithms it can be made to recognize other chemicals and odors such as blood, sweat or human urine.

Check out more information at eandt.theiet.org (registration to this website is free and is needed in order to view this article).

FAA approves Washington State use of UAS for Wildfires

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has been granted permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to use UAS to monitor wildfires, particularly in an emergency.

Check out more information at auvsi.org

Robot to Use Hiking Poles to Cross Disasters

Last year at the Stanford-Berkeley Robotics Symposium, we saw some tantalizing slides from Oussama Khatib about a humanoid robot that used trekking poles to balance itself. We were promised more details later, and the Stanford researchers delivered at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) this year, where they presented the concept of SupraPed robots.

The idea is equipping robots with a pair of special trekking poles packed with sensors that, according to the researchers, “transforms biped humanoids into tripeds or quadrupeds or more generally, SupraPeds.” By using these smart poles to steady themselves, the robots would be able to navigate through “cluttered and unstructured environments such as disaster sites.”

Check out more information at spectrum.ieee.org

Soon, ‘nature-inspired’ flying robots for search and rescue missions

Scientists from London have come with “nature-inspired” drones or flying robots that will eventually be used for everything from military surveillance to search and rescue.

Check out more information at zeenews.india.com

Finnish Mobile Urban Situation Awareness System Robot

Some 13 researchers from various universities in Finland, including IEEE members Riku Jäntti and Heikki Koivo, have created the Mobile Urban Situation Awareness System,or MUSAS, for short. The system combines information from any number of devices, including handhelds, to provide an overview of an event, and transmits it all to a central location. Information can come from cameras, wireless sensor network, wireless LANs, mapping software, wearable wireless sensors, and remote-controlled robots. With this system, multiple agencies and their rescue operations can be coordinated successfully, especially during times of disasters and emergencies. More lives can be saved as this system can create a map of the area that pinpoints both the location of victims and first responders.

Check out more information at theinstitute.ieee.org

All girl team brings SAR robot to White House

The White House hosted its annual science fair Tuesday, May 27, 2014 with a special focus on girls and women who have excelled in the science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, fields. Katelyn Sweeney and Olivia Van Amsterdam from Natick High School showcased an invention that is able “to traverse ice and deploy a small, submersible robot into the water to carry out the preliminary search pattern”. The two girls designed the robot through the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program. The remotely operated vehicle can go 40 feet deep and withstand temperatures as low as 33 degrees.

Check out more information at wgbhnews.org

Robot used to search from Queensland miner

story here

Colorado Mudslides: UAVs and Roboticists Without Borders on standby

The Colorado mudslides appear to be the Washington state SR530 mudslide writ large (4 miles long versus 1 mile long), though thankfully with a search for three people, who could still be alive versus the 43 killed in Washington state.

rwob patch.pptxMesa County is the best place in the world to have a mudslide- Ben Miller, in the Mesa County Sheriff’s office and now director of its Unmanned Aircraft Program, has been an early adopter of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). Under his direction, Mesa County got the first approval for an agency to fly over an entire county. His “flock” includes a Draganfly X4-ES rotorcraft (Draganfly is a Robotocists Without Borders member!) with their own version of advanced 2D/3D mosaic software that the geologists and hydrologists at SR530 found so useful. Ben also has a Gatewing and Falcon fixed-wing sUAS.

The UAS providers of the Roboticists Without Borders team (Black Swift, Draganfly, Precision Hawk, and Texas A&M) are on stand-by to assist, possibly providing a LIDAR platform and additional software.  Precision Hawk and their geospatial software, of course, were the stars of our SR530 mudslide response providing an interactive 3D reconstruction of the “moonscape” in less than 3 hours of processing time on a laptop.

Black Swift has been doing some phenomenal work that could prevent mudslides and flooding- they are developing a miniature microwave radiometer package for NASA for their sUAS that can detect soil moisture– which can determine if the soil is saturated and thus about to flood or slide. The package isn’t ready yet, but think about the implications for being proactive next spring!

The size of the mudslide raises the question of the use of multiple sUAS in a divide-and-conquer strategy. There has been a significant amount of research on this in terms of optimal path planning and general coordination. I believe the University of Colorado Boulder may hold COAs by the FAA which permit multiple platforms to be in the same area at the same time– for their storm formation studies, but I could be wrong.

Please donate to Roboticists Without Borders so that team members can continue to donate their time and equipment to help responders and accelerate the adoption of the technology.

 

Preventing disasters: small unmanned aerial vehicles for evacuation and crowd control

This month’s issue of Smithsonian Magazine has an article  “Why are people so comfortable with drones?” on  Brittany Duncan’s preliminary study for her NSF graduate fellowship research on using small UAS for evacuation and crowd. Brittany is my PhD student who recently flew the AirRobot at the SR530 mudslide response. It’s nice to see that robots are being considered for more than the immediate life-saving aspects of search and rescue. Brittany sees a near future where aerial vehicles can act as “headers” and “heelers” to guide and block people into following the right exits during an evacuation.

Soma Turkey Mine Disasters: Mine Disasters and Robots

(note: this blog was referenced by New Scientist) The horrendous number of victims at the Soma mine disaster in Turkey continues to grow. We immediately reached out to Turkish officials through Dr. Hasari Celebi at the Gebze Institute of Technology as a guiding force.  Less than a year ago I had given a keynote at a workshop on disaster robotics being held there by the government with Dr. Celebi as a key driving force.  It was clear that there was many scientists interested in applying their great ideas to earthquake response. Unfortunately it takes time and sustained investment to create a robotics capability for handling such a tragedy and the mine disaster was too soon.

Most people don’t realize that mine disasters have been to date the most common situation for ground rescue robots. As I note in Disaster Robotics out of the 28 disasters where robots have been used or on site between 2001 and 2013, 12 (42%) were underground mine incidents. Of the four disasters where robots were on-site but could not be used, 3 (75%) were underground mine disasters- showing just how much this technology is needed.
2 MSHA wolverine Underground mine disasters in coal mines are especially challenging as there may be methane to cause explosions or because the mine itself catches fire which is difficult to suppress. Mine responses are challenging based on the type of entry into the mine. Dr. Jeff Kravitz at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the expert on robots for underground mine disasters and we co-authored an article “Mobile robots in mine rescue and recovery” in IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Magazine that summarizes the opportunities and challenges for robots based on an analysis of deployments in the US. MSHA may have the only mine permissible robot in the world (i.e., certified not to cause an explosion in a methane-rich environment)- the V-2, an Andros Wolverine shown in the photo.

 

CRASAR has assisted with two mine disasters Midas Gold Mine (2007) and Crandall Canyon (2007) and was requested to assist with two others but the technology wasn’t there. The Midas and Crandall Canyon events used smaller robots, an Inkutun Xtreme loaned from the pool at SPAWAR and a Inuktun Mine Crawler that could go down narrow boreholes. We also conducted a report for MSHA on underground rescue technologies that allowed access to their use of robots at 7 other mine disasters.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Turkish miners, their families, and the responders.