We’ve had members of the Police Technology Unit of the Austin Police Department over to Disaster City twice to see our Dragan and AirRobot UAVs and our Packbot 510 and SUGV. SPO Eric Cortez and his colleagues have been terrific in helping us learn more about how they would use these devices, what they look for in a disaster (which the new Dr. Josh Peschel worked on for his PhD), and how fire rescue and police might share and coordinate. Here’s the link to the Austin Fox Channel video– one embarrassing aspect: Disaster City is a Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) facility not the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.
Archive for the ‘Rescue Robots’ Category
The 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster was yesterday, which leads me to a shout-out for New Jersey Task Force 1 which is housed at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in old blimp hangers within an easy stroll of the site of the fire (there’s a nice plaque marking the spot). New Jersey Task Force 1 was the first US team to adopt rescue robots, almost immediately after 9/11. They continue to explore new technologies such as new sensors and small UAVs. Keep up the good work!
Juan Rojas has passed on this interesting article about a robot controlled with a through-the-ground wireless link and tested in an abandoned mine. Through the ground wireless is a Holy Grail of mine rescue so this appears to be a great step in the right direction!
I’m getting bombarded with emails about the incipient DARPA grand challenge in disaster robots- very exciting- both the idea and the attention rescue robotics is getting!
While I haven’t gone through the BAA in detail (the whole email barrage thing plus I teach on Tuesdays), the media coverage and speculation highlights 3 things that I especially like:
The idea of integration is fantastic and a key enabler in making robots adoptable. Since 1999, we’ve seen this gap between an interesting sensor or mobility platform and the “full meal deal” of working in a scenario.
Another interesting idea is the use of humanoids. Up until Fukushima, rescue robots have been primarily used for sub-human scale space– spaces where people simply couldn’t go because they didn’t fit. Fukushima and indeed chemical disasters such as Bhopal occur in human-scaled spaces, where people can physically fit but may not be able to survive or work long (or well) with protective gear. The rule of thumb is that robots don’t replace people or dogs, they do things that humans can’t do or can’t do for long enough or well enough– hence our name: Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. Through funding by the National Science Foundation, we’ve been working with TEEX on human-robot interaction for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events- and we see huge possibilities for land, sea, and aerial robots.
And it’s win-win: the impact of improved manipulation would benefit robots operating in either scale of space– the skills that allow a a large robot to open doors could be used by a small robot to move rubble out of the way or help triage an unconscious victim.
The focus on the media appears to be on humanoids, which I hope doesn’t detract from other types of mobility or modalities. There are often aerial and water-based aspects of disasters- at Fukushima, Westinghouse used the Honeywell UAV to sample radiation and get close up views of structural damage (I assisted the Westinghouse team). Marine robots could have been used to monitor pollution in the sea.
And keep in mind that from a robotics perspective, there are at least 12 very distinct activities for rescue robots beyond the direct intervention needed to have prevented the explosions as Fukushima. These are search, reconnaissance and mapping, rubble removal, debris estimation, structural inspection, in situ medical assessment and intervention, medically-sensitive extrication and evacuation of casualties, acting as mobile beacon or repeater, adaptive shoring, logistics support, victim recovery, and serving as a surrogate for a team member. This list was compiled based on feedback from responders and what they’ve asked for or speculated on based on our 15 deployments and 30+ exercises we’ve participated in.
A good starting place is Chapter 50 Search and Rescue Robots in Handbook of Robotics and I’m working hard on my forthcoming book on Rescue Robots for MIT Press.
had a great day with the Austin Police Department Technical Unit working with our UAVs and UGVs at the Disaster City chemical train derailment site! They came out as part of experimentation with the use of robots for CBRN disasters.
I have returned to Japan representing CRASAR and the Roboticists Without Borders members who assisted with the deployments to Minamisanriku and Rikuzentakata in April and October. Tomorrow I will join Prof. Satoshi Tadokoro, head of the International Rescue System Institute and our partner in the response and recovery work, and Dr. Anne Emig, our kind facilitator from the National Science Foundation, to attend the memorial service in Minamisanriku. Over 400 miles of coastland were destroyed by the tsunami, but Minamisanriku serves as a symbol for the damage– and the city was especially gracious to allow us to learn about rescue robotics through helping them in a small way.
Minamisanriku is a bit like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket- small fishing towns that swell with vacationers. When we were there 11 months ago, above the surge line the cherry trees were beginning to blossom around the lovely houses. It was truly Spring with the promise of beauty and renewal. Below the waterline was utter destruction. The views were, are, irreconcilable.
But at the same time the image of flowering cherry blossoms above the debris speaks of mourning the loss of life and livelihood while at the same time acknowledging the resilience of the Japanese people as they move forward.
A patch goes to Antoine Martin who provided these links including video of the Italian made Ageotec Perseo ROV being deployed by the Italian Fire Department (still not clear if it is a municipality or a group like FEMA). Check it out! Video from robotsnob, Ageotec’s site, and a full frontal view of the ROV.
Underwater robots are assisting with the Costa Concordia wreck (see link).. A CRASAR Roboticists Without Borders patch to the first person who can confirm the type, model, and deploying agency!
The news of the Costa Concordia sinking is tragic and our hearts go out to the families and victims. CRASAR has put out offers to assist with underwater vehicles such as those used for the tsunami response in Japan. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in particular have been used to extensively to help gather forensic data on sinkings and to help divers repair and refloat ships. ROVs in this case could assist with victim recovery from the icy waters, as sadly time is running out for live rescues. The Italian Coast Guard used an ROV to search for the missing balloonists last year, so it is likely that an ROV is in use, though there is no confirmation. A CRASAR patch to the first person who can confirm the use of ROVs!
Several groups are reporting on Prof. Bob Full’s lab work in tails for robots based on the ways lizards use tail to counterbalance but also steer when they jump! I was interviewed for comments. I’m a big fan of Bob’s. This would have been fantastic to have a small robot that could steer itself as it was lowered (or jumped) from ledge to ledge at the Midas Gold Mine disaster back in 2007. And many robots use some sort of shifting weight like a flipper or a manipulator arm or its shape to try to get over obstacles or down stairs without tipping. Check it out!