Roboticists Without Borders

Land, Sea, or Aerial Rescue Robots at No Cost for Up to 10 Days During an Incident

Check out on NPR our recent deployment with Hydronaulix to Greece with the Emily lifeguard assistant robot

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CRASAR has recently formalized its long humanitarian history of inserting the most promising and proven of these new technologies into response exercises and actual disasters worldwide at no cost to responders and agencies into the Roboticists Without Borders program. The intent is to do good while helping show the value of robots to speed adoption and to gather valuable field data to make all robotic systems better.

The Roboticists Without Borders model is to create pools of professionals in ground, aerial, or marine robots or emergency response who are trained in disaster response and how to work with incident management, what are the types of missions and best match of systems with the needed data, and have participated in high-fidelity exercises.

The end goal is for responders all over the world to own and regularly deploy truly usable robots by 2021. Data from all known rescue robot deployments in 2010 indicates that if an agency has a robot or a prior agreement with a group that does, robots were used with 0.5 days but if they aren’t familiar with robots and do not have agreements in place, then it is 7.5 days before robots were used.

Through Roboticists Without Borders, universities, industry, and private individuals and CRASAR can work together to match the right systems to a particular incident, while gaining deeper insights into how to refine or create ways to assist to the disaster community. Members undergo response specific training and scenario-based exercises at Disaster City® or other high fidelity facilities with responders. CRASAR has a limited pool of money from donations and rescue robot research grants to cover travel expenses, the majority of costs are picked up by the members themselves.

For Potential Members

The next informational meeting will be at Xponential: May 9, 2017, 6-7:30PM, Omni Hotel- Texas Spice Restaurant, 555 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75202

This informal meeting will allow interested parties to learn more about Roboticists Without Borders, ask questions, and meet existing members. Some questions that we expect to be asked are:
  • How RWB is able to legally deploy to a disaster
  • How a deployment works- what equipment goes, whose in charge, what are the workflows, etc.
  • The requirements for membership, in terms of time and what costs you are expected to cover and what costs RWB covers
  • Stories of benefits to members (beyond societal service)
  • Upcoming schedule of training, exercises, and educational service events

To be a Member- either contribute equipment, operators, or funding (see membership form for complete details):

  • Undergo RW/OB training and robot testing at least once a year
  • Donate up to 10 days of time and equipment if matched with a disaster; CRASAR provides actual travel, shipping costs and arrangements
  • No obligation to participate in a disaster or to risk robot at a disaster
  • During deployment report to the CRASAR team lead and follow all requesting agencies guidelines and safety procedures
  • Assist with responder training, education, and public awareness

For Agencies To Request Robots, Expertise, or Classes

CRASAR has provided robots at no cost to the agency to over 25 disasters worldwide with Roboticists Without Borders members joining in over half of them. We also are happy to answer questions and donate our expertise. CRASAR has offered free training on awareness and best practices since 2002, with a major training grant in 2004 for targeting the larger emergency response community. Our next class will be at the 2018 Governors Hurricane Conference®, West Palm Beach, Florida, on May 16.  Please visit the FLGHC website to register for this event.

To request robots for an incident:

  • Agencies or organization with authority issues a formal request
  • Small team is deployed after approval by the requesting agency. If necessary, CRASAR covers costs
  • The team works under the direction of the requesting agency
  • CRASAR provides all data to requesting agency; all interactions with the press or release of data goes through the requesting agency’s public information officer


CRASAR also provides awareness training and robots for exercises to provide hands on familiarization for responders and emergency managers in return for scientific data from exercises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Doesn’t RWB compete with companies who make robots or undermine their market?

No! The point is that every response and recovery agency should have robots- but they don’t. RWB facilitates humanitarian use of robots, but also helps promotes robots and encourages adoption. Do the Doctors Without Borders compete with local doctors? No, because there aren’t any doctors where they go. Should there have been more doctors there? Absolutely. Same idea with robots.

Q. Who can join?

Anyone from anywhere can join to contribute equipment, expertise, or donations (or any combination!) using the standard membership form.

Agencies or other potential “users” can create a memorandum of understanding, add CRASAR to their vendor list, or otherwise set up a partnership as governed by their rules- there is no standard form because each agency is different.

Q. How much does it cost to join?

Nothing- though we ask companies to donate either a platform, significant time before the normal training and exercises, or $3K to help defray costs. You do have to pay your way each year to a training event and make sure your robot has completed the applicable NIST standards.

Q. If my company or university joins, how often can we expect to go to disasters?

It depends. There is no guarantee that your technology or expertise will be called upon or that you will be available if it is.

Q. Can my agency or institution create agreements with CRASAR in advance?

Yes, please. When CRASAR was at the University of South Florida, there was a memorandum of understanding with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue that allows CRASAR to be requested and reimbursed as part of the state response system. Likewise we have one with Austin Fire Department.

Q. How is RWB funded?

RWB is funded by donations, by research grants to CRASAR (when applicable), research overhead from grants. A deployment will either draw from those reserves or be reimbursed by the requesting agency. While we clearly prefer to be reimbursed, CRASAR can generally cover travel costs so that agencies that are skeptical of robots or have no financial disincentive to issue an invitation.

Because robots are new and disasters are possibly the most challenging application for robots, many of our members have grants that allow them to go to disasters- the way earthquake engineers  do. Plus the National Science Foundation has Rapid Response Research grants that we can apply for. CRASAR has been generally successful in getting these grants- one was for using UAVs to assess damage to buildings from Hurricane Katrina and the human-robot interaction model that resulted was used by the UAV team at Fukushima.

Q. What is the relationship between CRASAR and RWB?

CRASAR is the center that is responsible for RWB. CRASAR has a larger mission and university role than RWB but RWB is a major activity.

Q. CRASAR has an equipment cache, does that mean those robots are the best or will be used first for a disaster?

CRASAR maintains a cache of robots for research that can also be used for deployments. Because these robots must support research, which not all commercial systems do, AND because every disaster is different, the CRASAR cache does not necessarily represent the best match for every incident. It is hoped that the RWB membership will have the best match.

Q. Who/how decides what RWB equipment or members participate in a disaster?

Technically, the buck stops with the director. But generally as soon as a disaster happens, the land, aerial, and marine leads will begin assessing the needs and making recommendations and contacting members to see what they think and what’s available and it converges pretty quickly to a consensus. The CRASAR Advisory Board reviews the recommended deployment plan.

Q. Can my agency request RWB participation in an incident (smaller than a disaster) or an exercise?

Yes. Members typically welcome the opportunity to work directly with users and get their feedback.

Q. Can my agency request RWB participation in an exercise?

Yes, please! CRASAR offers 2- and 4-hour hands-on awareness classes and a 10 hour operator class to introduce groups to rescue robotics. We will often provide a class and robots at no expense in return for being able to collect data from the responders as they use the robots in their exercise. We’ve trained over 400 responders and emergency managers to date.


While not all CRASAR deployments involve the Roboticists Without Borders, many do– starting with the first deployment of rescue robot: the 9/11 World Trade Center. The CRASAR team consisted of DARPA, Foster-Miller (now QinetiQ-NA), iRobot, the University of South Florida, U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command-Army Research and Development Command-Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division, and the US Navy Space and Naval Warfare Command San Diego. WINTEC and iSENSYS assisted with Hurricane Katerina, iSENSYS for post Hurricane Katerina recovery assessment work. US Navy Space and Naval Warfare Command San Diego supplied robots to the Midas Gold Mine collapsed deployment. CRASAR helped coordinate Inuktun and Pipe Eye International creation of the mine crawler robot developed for MSHA for the Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster. The International Rescue Systems Institute and Drexel University assisted with the deployment to the Berkman Plaza forensics analysis, with University of Massachusetts sending equipment. The International Rescue Systems Institute  also joined CRASAR and the Franhofer Institute at the State Archives Collapse in Cologne, Germany. AEOS joined CRASAR for recovery work at Hurricanes Wilma and Ike. AEOS, General Dynamics, and SeaBotix participated in the two Tohoku tsunami recovery deployments. Hydronaulix joined and is leading an ongoing project to prevent refugee drownings in Greece. UAVRG flew over a dozen flights with CRASAR at the request of the American Red Cross for the recent Louisiana flooding.




Current members of Roboticists Without Borders are: AirRobot, Black Swift, CDIG, Datawing Global, Florida State University, Infinitum Humanitarian Systems, PrecisionHawk, Hydronaulix, Kovar & Associates, R-T Aerostat, Teledyne, UAVRG, Unmanned Ad-Hoc Industries, USAA


For companies, universities or individuals please use this agreement to join Roboticists Without Borders as an Equipment Provider; Equipment & Trained Operator Provider; or Funding Provider. If you are a requesting agency, please send us your standard aid compact agreements.

Request Assets

To request assets please send email to

CRASAR does not self-deploy and participates in responses only through official invitation. We strongly urge technologists not to self-deploy as it distracts the response and also can lead to arrest.

“Roboticists Without Borders” (trademark pending) is not affiliated with Doctors Without Borders or Engineers Without Borders, but wishes them the greatest success as we all strive to make the world and our time here better.