Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

Murphy Offers Suggestions to Japanese Government for Faster International Deployments of Rescue Robots (press release)

Dr. Robin Murphy, a pioneer in the area of rescue robotics, spoke to the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) Dec. 11 in Tokyo.

Murphy directs the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and is the Raytheon Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.

NEDO is a new Japanese agency focusing on increasing Japan’s industrial competitiveness. The agency is considering creating an international rescue robot team for disasters. Murphy provided a unique perspective as the leader in robot deployments, having participated 15 disasters including the World Trade Center collapse, Hurricanes Charley and Katrina, and Fukushima Daiichi.

“Life saving activities are effectively over after three days,” Murphy said, “but robots aren’t being used on average until four days after the disaster — too late to make a difference.”

In the case of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear event, suitable Japanese and U.S. robots were already in Japan and could have been used immediately, but due to a lack of information, trust in the robots, and other concerns, the first aerial and ground robots were not used until a month after the event.

Money has not been the barrier, Murphy said. She described how companies have consistently donated robots and experts with no charge for disasters the through the CRASAR Roboticists Without Borders program.

Murphy made three recommendations. First, the U.S. and Japan should work together to establish relationships between countries and agencies in order to improve the understanding of rescue robots and to enable rapid deployment. Second, governments should provide funding for transportation, logistics, and preparatory activities such as training and vetting robots. Third, there should be clear mechanisms to provide feedback to the robotics industry and to research so they can continue to improve designs. For more on the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue visit www.crasar.org.

TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

Contact Dr. Robin Murphy, murphy@cse.tamu.edu, 979.845.8737

Researchers and Responders to Jointly Develop UAV Visual Common Ground

Researchers and responders from The Texas A&M University System have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a visual “common ground” between operators and responders who use micro and small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for search and rescue.

Following principles in how people know what other people are talking about in conversations, visual common ground will allow responders to easily express where they want the UAV to fly and what angle to examine collapsed structures using an iPad or other tablet. The responders would also be able to review imagery and video while the UAV continues its mission rather than wait for the UAV to land.

Response professionals from the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Disaster Preparedness and Response Division (DPR) will fly weekly at Disaster City® with researchers from the Texas Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR), speeding the development and refinement of the natural user interface.

Disaster City® is a 52-acre facility designed featuring full-scale collapsible structures that replicate community infrastructure. The site includes simulations of a strip mall, office building, industrial complex, assembly hall/theater, single-family dwelling, train derailments, three active rubble piles and a small lake.

The grant is the first direct partnering of emergency responders with university professors/researchers for UAV research. Bob McKee, DPR director and agency chief for Texas Task Force 1, serves as a principal investigator with Dr. Robin Murphy, Texas A&M University professor and CRASAR director. The partnership leverages the capabilities of top academic researchers and the preparedness and response expertise of TEEX, all existing within the A&M System.

“Being able to work directly and routinely with responders under conditions as near to a real disaster as one can get will allow the research to progress faster. This could only happen at Texas A&M,” Murphy said. “Normally we’d have to try to condense a year of work into one week of trials, and if something went wrong we’d have to wait months for another opportunity for responders or a demolished building to become available.”

McKee said, “TEEX has been actively involved in efforts to develop and adapt robots for search and rescue applications. Though working with the National Institute for Standards and Technology project to develop standard test methods for emergency response robots to collaborating with scientific researchers and commercial developers at our unique Disaster City® facility, we’re hoping to someday use small UAVs and other unmanned systems to help save lives.”
The grant will help enable emergency responders to take advantage of small “personal” UAVs being developed for the U.S. Department of Defense. Urban search and rescue operations can be more challenging than military peacekeeping operations as they can require assessment and analysis of damaged structures, hazardous areas, and other unique situations.

 

The idea for creating shared displays is a result of over a decade of research on rescue robotics by Murphy, who was recently named one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company magazine. She has led UAV deployments at numerous disasters starting with Hurricane Katrina. Her work with Dr. Jenny Burke (a former graduate student currently with Boeing), based on CRASAR experiences with ground robots at the World Trade Center, showed that search and rescue specialists were nine times more effective if two responders—not one—worked together using a shared visual display.

The team expects to have an open source tablet interface for AirRobot and Dragan UAVs within 24 months that leads to a significant, measurable improvement in team performance as well as high user acceptance.

 

Contact for TEEX: Brian Blake   Brian.blake@tamu.edu (O) 979-458-6837 (C) 979-324-8995

Contact for TEES: Pam Green  p-green@tamu.edu (O) 979-845-5510 (C) 979-574-4138

IRS-CRASAR team finalist for Best Paper SSRR 2011

The IRS-CRASAR paper on our April deployment to Japan was a finalist for best paper at the IEEE Safety Security Rescue Robot conference, which met this week in Kyoto. The work by the Japanese team that produced the QUINCE robot used at Fukushima deservedly won- but it was a great honor to be a finalist!  The paper is Use of Remotely Operated Marine Vehicles at Minamisanriku and Rikuzentakata Japan for Disaster Recovery by R. Murphy, K. Dreger, S. Newsome, J. Rodocker, E. Steimle. T. Kimura, K. Makabe, F. Matsuno, S.Tadokoro, and K. Kon. Congratulations all! The paper should be available from download from IEEE Xplore shortly.

Hurricane Irene: hope it’s not 7.5 days after landfall that robots get deployed

The Roboticists Without Borders members are standing by to assist with Hurricane Irene at no cost.

We’ve been pinging our contacts in the response and emergency management communities to remind them about the uses of robots. I recently presented a paper at AUVSI that analyzed the 8 known deployments of robots at 7 disasters in 2010– if the incident command agency or company already had robots or an agreement in place, robots were used with 0.5 days. If not, it was an average of 7.5 days before the robots were used (land, marine, or air– that wasn’t a factor), well beyond the critical life saving first few days. 10 years after the successful use at 9/11, robots still haven’t been integrated into responses.

For a hurricane, as with a small earthquake or tornado, UAVs and marine vehicles tend to be of more immediate and impact larger regions than ground robots. That’s because there is usually little damage to large numbers of commercial buildings- instead homes are devastated. But homes create debris fields less than 3m deep, which canines and existing tools work great with and faster than small ground robots. State National Guard teams often fly Predators, but don’t rule out the value of small UAVs hand launched by response teams to get on demand “hummingbird” views of the situation.

New Jersey has two UASI teams with ground robots and I’ve heard they’ve been looking at small UAVs, but I don’t know of any other response agencies in the projected area with rescue robots. Please let me know if there are (we’ll mail you a CRASAR patch for confirmed info).

But regardless, my thoughts on Hurricane Irene  comes down to this: I hope that no lives will be lost and damage will be minimal.

CRASAR on CNN with Randi Kaye at 12:45 Central (Aug. 11)

June 22: Robo Virtual Summit on Mobile Robots for Emergency Response

The Robo Virtual Summit this summer was to be on navigation and autonomy but now has shifted to Mobile Robots for Emergency Response, with people such as Bob Quinn talking about the QinetiQ robots and Tim Trainer about the iRobot bots at Fukushima- these are guys with their boots on the ground. Other good talks as well. I will be giving one of the talks (actually it was taped last week) in the afternoon and be available for questions. Check it out!

Presentation at the Preliminary Report on the Disaster and Robotics in Japan: Special Forum at ICRA 2011

forum position.pptx is the presentation I gave on May 11, 2011– I’ve had requests for it, so here it is. It’s a .pdf file so it may open in another window or ask to be downloaded depending on your browser. I was asked to discuss all US robots used to date at the disaster, not just the IRS-CRASAR Roboticists Without Borders deployment,  and thanks iRobot, QinetiQ, and Honeywell for their help. Any errors are totally mine.

PRESS RELEASE 4/24/11: Underwater robots clear port, look for victims

Points of Contact in Japan:

Dr. Fumitoshi Matsuno, matsuno@me.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Points of Contact in US:

Dr. Robin Murphy, CRASAR, murphy@cse.tamu.edu, via Kimberly Mallet

Joshua Chamot, National Science Foundation, jchamot@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7730

Tim Schnettler, Texas A&M, tschnettler@tamu.edu, 979-458-2277

Vickie Chachere, University of South Florida, (813) 974-6251

A team of research and industry experts with four state-of-the-art small underwater vehicles from the US-based Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue has returned Sunday from five days in the Minami Sanriku and Rikuzen Takada areas of Japan.  CRASAR worked with the Japanese-based International Rescue Systems institute to inspect port areas as well as search for bodies trapped in flotsam or under submerged rubble. The suitcase-sized robots have advanced imaging sonars that can penetrate the murky water along with video cameras. The robots were deployed at six locations along the coast north of Sendai, working in areas that were unsafe for Japanese Coast Guard divers.  The robots did not find any bodies but received praise from Minami Sanriku Mayor Hitoshi Sato who said that the city’s port facility essential to the fishing industry would be reopened based on the robot data.

The remotely operated vehicles, called ROVs, are extremely small versions similar to the robots used at the BP Oil Spill. They vary in size from the suitcase-sized Seamor to the tiny football-sized AC-ROV to the, making them easy to transport. The SeaBotix SARbot was used the most; it is designed especially for emergency responders to be able to use to find victims trapped underwater in vehicles.  All of the robots have a tether to allow the operators to control the vehicles in real time and see the sonar and video camera footage.

The joint effort was led by Prof. Tetsuya Kimura (Nagaoka University of Technology), Prof. Fumitoshi Matsuno (Kyoto University), and Prof. Robin Murphy (Texas A&M) with funding for the US researchers from the National Science Foundation. The team members donated their time and equipment through the CRASAR humanitarian Roboticists Without Borders program. CRASAR and IRS are the leading research centers on rescue robotics, with CRASAR deploying robots to disasters worldwide including the 9/11 World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina. The other US members were Dr. Eric Steimle from AEOS Inc., a Florida start-up company specializing in marine environmental monitoring, Jesse Rodocker and Sean Newsome from SeaBotix, a leading manufacturer of ROVs, and Karen Dreger from the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology.

See www.crasar.org for links to example photos and video footage of robots, robot-eye views, and general operations. Higher resolution b-roll is available upon request.

Press Release: Japan-US team deploys underwater robots to coast

PRESS RELEASE 4/20/11

Japan-US team deploys underwater robots to coast

Points of Contact in Japan:

Dr. Fumitoshi Matsuno, matsuno@me.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Points of Contact in US:

Dr. Robin Murphy, CRASAR, murphy@cse.tamu.edu, via Kimberly Mallet

Joshua Chamot, National Science Foundation, jchamot@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7730

Tim Schnettler, Texas A&M, tschnettler@tamu.edu, 979-458-2277

Vickie Chachere, University of South Florida, (813) 974-6251

A team of research and industry experts with four state-of-the-art small underwater vehicles from the US-based Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue are working with the Japanese-based International Rescue Systems institute to inspect damaged bridges, docks, and pipelines, as well as with victim recovery. The team has initially set up in the devastated city of Minami-sanriku on April 19 and will expand into other areas throughout the week. The suitcase-sized robots have advanced imaging sonars that can penetrate the murky water that often thwarts manual divers. The use of underwater robots for disasters is fairly new and the team hopes the five day deployment will lead to the adoption of marine robots worldwide and to improvements and new research directions.

The remotely operated vehicles, called ROVs,  are extremely small versions similar to the robots used at the BP Oil Spill. They vary in size from the suitcase-sized Seamor to the tiny football-sized AC-ROV to the, making them easy to transport to the ravaged coastline north of Sendai. Three of the robots carry specialized sonars that can see through muddy water and have grippers. The SeaBotix SARbot is designed especially for emergency responders to be able to use to find victims trapped underwater in vehicles.  All of the robots have a tether to allow the operators to control the vehicles in real time and see the sonar and video camera footage.

The field team is led by Prof. Tetsuya Kimura (Nagaoka University of Technology) and  Prof. Robin Murphy (Texas A&M) with funding from the National Science Foundation. CRASAR and IRS are the leading research centers on rescue robotics, with CRASAR deploying robots to disasters worldwide including the 9/11 World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina. The US members of the team include Dr. Eric Steimle from AEOS Inc., a Florida start-up company specializing in marine environmental monitoring, Jesse Rodocker and Sean Newsome from SeaBotix, a leading manufacturer of ROVs, and Karen Dreger from the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology. The team members are donating their time and equipment through the CRASAR humanitarian Roboticists Without Borders program.

IRS and CRASAR have held many joint exercises, including one on the day of the earthquake and tsunami at the Disaster City® facilities at Texas A&M. 21 IRS researchers and students had just finished participating in field trials and workshop with CRASAR and were preparing to return to Japan when the quake struck. The IRS members were able to return home and immediately began deploying their ground robots and advising government agencies. They also invited their US colleagues at CRASAR who assembled a team of small, highly portable remotely operated vehicles.

A joint Japan-US press conference in Japan is tentatively scheduled for April 24 and photographs, video of the robots and what they are seeing, and updates will be posted to the CRASAR website daily, as internet connections permit. Videoconference interviews with team members may be possible, again depending on the situation.  Dr. Murphy and other team members will be available for follow up interviews.

SARbot making a test dive on April 19, 2011, photo courtesy of Karen Dreger, CRASAR, & NSF



PRESS RELEASE 4/18/11: Underwater Robots to Help Japan Recovery

Points of Contact:

Dr. Robin Murphy, CRASAR, murphy@cse.tamu.edu, via Ms. Kimberly Mallett (979) 845-8737

Joshua Chamot, National Science Foundation, jchamot@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7730

Tim Schnettler, Texas A&M, tschnettler@tamu.edu, 979-458-2277

Vickie Chachere, University of South Florida, (813) 974-6251

A team of experts and four state-of-the-art small underwater vehicles led by Texas A&M with funding from the National Science Foundation will be working with their Japanese counterparts to help with inspect damaged bridges, docks, and pipelines, as well as with victim recovery.  Restoration of utilities, transportation, and shipping typically depend on inspections by manual divers, who must work in murky waters and in fear of debris being washed into them by the high currents.  Advanced underwater vehicles have been used in the aftermath of Hurricanes Wilma and Ike and the Haiti Earthquake, but little is understood about how these robots can be used for disasters or how they can be designed to be more effective. In order to learn more about these technologies while helping local townships, the International Rescue Systems (IRS) institute in Japan invited the team to assist with an intense five-day effort from April 19-23 around Sendai and Minami-sanriku-cho.

The robots vary in size from the tiny football-sized AC-ROV to the suitcase-sized Seamor, making them easy to transport to the ravaged coastline around Sendai. Three of the robots carry specialized sonars that can see through muddy water and one, the Seabotix SARbot, has a gripper designed especially for rescuing victims trapped underwater.  All of the robots have a tether to allow the operators to see and control the vehicles in real time.

The five person team consists of industry experts from AEOS and Seabotix and researchers from Texas A&M and the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology. The team is being led by Prof. Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Eric Steimle from AEOS, a  Florida start-up company specializing in marine environmental monitoring.  The team members are donating their time and equipment through the CRASAR humanitarian Roboticists Without Borders program. CRASAR is the leading organization in the world and has deployed land, sea, and aerial robots to 11 previous disasters including the 9/11 World Trade Center Collapse and Hurricane Katrina.

A joint Japan-US press conference in Japan is tentatively scheduled for April 24 and photographs, video of the robots and what they are seeing, and updates will be posted to the CRASAR website daily, as internet connections permit. Videoconference interviews with team members may be possible, again depending on the situation.  Dr. Murphy and other team members will be available for follow up interviews.