Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Northrop Grumman & Yamaha Motor Build Unmanned Helicopter System for Wildland Fire Fighting

Northrop Grumman Corporation and Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., have agreed to work together to develop and market an innovative small, unmanned autonomous helicopter system.

Called the Rotary Bat (R-Bat), the new system merges a proven airframe produced by Yamaha, with the latest autonomous control and intelligence-gathering technologies for use in urban environments for applications such as search and rescue, power line inspection and forest fire observation.

Check out more information at uasvision.com

Robot used to search from Queensland miner

story here

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.

Washington State Mudslides Highlight Challenges for Ground and Aerial Rescue Robots

All of our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, families, and responders. 

I am already being asked about how robots could be used for the horrific mudslides in Washington State. 

To the best of my knowledge, robots have been used only once for a mudslide. That was the CRASAR deployment in 2005 for the La Conchita, California, mudslides which provided unmanned ground vehicles at the request of Ventura County Fire Rescue and Los Angeles County Fire Rescue. Direct victims of mudslides and avalanches rarely have survivors because the ground and snow acts like a fluid displaying the oxygen, leading to suffocation. Victims of collateral damage have a better chance of survivor. CRASAR was called in to help search the crushed houses for missing neighbors; as detailed in Disaster Robotics, the small ground robots didn’t get far in the gooey mud. 

A major challenge for a slide or avalanche is that the robot needs to burrow through a “granular space.” Instead of going through a hole where the hole is at least as big as the robot, the robot needs to go through a space where the holes are smaller than the robot. There’s some interesting research that Dan Goldberg at Georgia Tech, Howie Choset at CMU and I have proposed on exploiting Dan’s work with robots that mimic sandfish, Howie’s miniature snakes for granular spaces but we’ve yet to hit on funding. 

Small UAVs could play a beneficial role. Certainly having the first responder on the scene driving down the road to the slide could able to get a quick overview of how far it extended. At La Conchita we had seen the possibility of small UAS dropping sensors in the slide that could be remotely monitored rather than sending geologists to periodically climb up the slide to make measurements. 

However, the pictures in the news of manned helicopters to airlift out survivors illustrates why air space coordination is a disaster remains a must and why civilians robot enthusiasts shouldn’t fly without permission, like the person filming the Harlem building collapse. The manned helicopters are working in the same under 400ft elevation that many small UAS companies advertise that their systems work in. It is important to remember that if a civilian flies in the airspace over a disaster, their AMA insurance is void (assuming they have insurance) and  regardless they may be subject to legal action. Worse yet, a manned helicopter conducting an airlift has to abort the mission if an unaccounted for vehicle enters their area of operation and thus could cost a victim their life. 

Structural Inspection with Unmanned Vehicles

katrina sger heli isle of capriMy book Disaster Robotics (MIT Press, Kindle, and iBook) covers structural inspection, documents 16 cases where robots have been used for structural inspection after disasters (the majority by CRASAR, but I’ve documented all cases I can find reported through April 2013) and has criteria for choosing what robot,  what the different work envelopes are,  lots of tables/figures per modality, and failure taxonomy and rates.
Here’s a quick guide to structural inspection in Disaster Robotics

- Chi1 defines structural inspection tasks versus recon and other tasks identified for disaster robotics.

- Ch2 list of robots used for what incident, formal failure taxonomy; this gives an overview of the 16 cases where robots have been used for structural inspection

- Ch3 use of ground robots for structural inspection, environments/work envelopes, describes the 5 cases where UGVs used for structural inspection, formulas for how to size a robot for an inspection task and a set of design spaces, gaps

- Ch4 use of UAVs for structural inspection, environments/work envelopes, describes the 7 cases where UAVs have been used for structural inspection, choice of rotorcraft versus fixed wing, conops,  human-robot ratio and safety, issues with lots of GPS,  gaps

- Ch5 use of marine vehicles for structural inspection, environments/work envelopes, describes the 4 cases where UMVs have been used for structural inspection, the need to inspect upstream not just the bridge substructure,  choice of AUV, ROV, UMV, gaps

- Ch6 how to conduct fieldwork and data analysis, using structural inspection as an example

Nature’s Fury Challenge FIRST Lego League teams compete in robotics challenge

Students this year had to program a robot that would handle natural disaster situations with a theme of nature’s fury. Two local teams represented the SPR Robotics group in Annapolis. Team F.I.R.E (Flaming Intelligent Robotic Engineers) chose wildfires, and Team E.W.O.K.S. (Engineers Working on Killah’ Solutions) chose hurricanes as their targeted natural disaster. The kids designed, built and programmed their own Lego Mindstorm Robots to compete in games and obstacle courses.

Here is the full article at CapitalGazette.com.
Here is an article from one of the teams at www.ngnews.com.

DARPA Official: Human-Robot Teams Key to Disaster Response

Dr. Gill Pratt wrote in the January-February edition of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “Over a period of less than three years,DARPA expects the field of robotics to undergo a historic transformation that could drive innovation in robots for defense, health care, agriculture and industry.”

This advancement is in part because of the DARPA Robotics Challenge which has under gone two of the three competitions. The final will be coming up soon and Pratt says the plan is to make the tasks more difficult and more authentic than they were in the trials.“My thought right now, and this is subject to change,” Pratt added, “is [to] take the eight different tasks we had as separate events in the trials and … combine them into an integrated task where the robot has to respond to a situation,” chaining together capabilities it demonstrated in the trials.

This final event will help show that robots can be used in the field of disasters,but the technology still won’t be quite ready for commercialization.“The technology will be ready for commercialization if a market can be found in the commercial world for it,” Pratt said. “What many people don’t realize is that the defense market is a very small fraction of the size of the commercial market.”

He added, “After we show the feasibility of things, after we provide the spark to start it, then we need to enter a phase where the costs get driven down. And the commercial world typically is very, very good for that.”

Check out the full article at www.defense.gov.

Flying Jellyfish-Like Machine Conceptualizes How Tiny Future Surveillance Robots Can Move

Researchers at New York University have taken cues from the aerodynamics of jellyfish to develop a tiny machine that can fly in a way that resembles the movements of the boneless, ocean-dwelling creatures. This unique flying style will allow great movability in small spaces and could be a great addition to any search and rescue arsenal.
Here is the link to the full article at International Business Times.

Robotena the Nurse Robot Transport Will Go Where Emergency Care Can’t

Robotena (www.robotena.org), a “nurse robot” which will be able to transport bodies away from the sniper towards a field medic. This robot could be used in Syria, where snipers becoming more and more ruthless and many people are afraid to go near wounded victims for fear of being the next target. One difference is that this robot will be huge, enabling it to protect a victim from further bullets within its metal body.
Here is the link to the full article at Robotics Trends