1 robot: 80,000 m2 covered and 104 objects found at 32 locations in 4 days

We are at Narita, getting ready to head home! In four days the team was in the field in Minami Sanriku with our IRS colleagues, the SeaBotix SARbot surveyed 32 locations and covered 80,000 m2 of Shizugawa Bay in just over 6 hours of time in the water, finding 104 objects such as cars, a lighthouse, and nets. And it wasn’t just the robot, we got to work through the data-to-decision process with GeoSuites and GIS systems… I’ll post video and lessons learned as soon as I can.

Minami Sanriku Cho: Day 1 summary

While the Turkey earthquake response forges on, the team in Japan continues to work. We just finished Day 2, but here is a video summary.  A lot of the shots are from Richard Smith, our GIS expert (great job!) The SeaBotix SARbot and the Lynn image enhancement software is performing wonderfully! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4KbhpCeh-0[/youtube]

In Japan but reaching out to Turkey…

We got word about the Turkey earthquake from our medical lead, Eric Rasmussen,  while we were on the water deploying ROVs and an AUV in Minami Sanriku Cho today. The CNN site is sketchy but it looks like very challenging conditions- beside getting help to the site, the types of houses and the weather are tough on searching, on victims in the cold, and on rescuers.

The International Rescue Systems Institute is looking at the availability of their caterpillar-like Active Scope Camera, the best robot I know of for penetrating extremely narrow voids. Small UAVs may be of use in understanding the situation and the civil engineering. I can’t tell from the news about marine vehicles– as one of the technologists here in Japan with me said: “I had no idea so much infrastructure is related to water!”

Today, the city of Minami Sanriku is celebrating the opening of their port after the tsunami– a great day and great progress in recovery. But a sad day for Turkey. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and the responders.

In Minamisanriku-Cho, gearing up for first mission

It is dawn here at Minamisanriku and from my hotel room, I can see streaks of orange over the New Port, the site we first searched and cleared in April. The tendrils of fog driftly past the small islands dotting Shizugawa Bay. We start checking our gear in another hour before breakfast and depart to an inlet on the northern border of the bay. There we will meet with city officials and fishermen who have asked us to find underwater debris, map it, and attach a float to it so that it can be removed.


We have brought two robots for the mission: a OceanServer autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that looks like a small yellow torpedo. It carries side scan sonar and will map out the area of the bay rapidly, probably within a hour. That will let us know where debris or possible debris is, which will then use the SARbot from SeaBotix from a boat to investigate. With its gripper, we should be able to attach a float to the underwater debris to mark it for easy identification for later removal. If not, IRS has two divers with us who will do it manual. Meanwhile the AUV will move to a new location and we will work in sequence: get “big picture” with AUV,  perform “little” actions with the tethered ROV.


But just having robots isn’t the same as getting the information to the right people at the right time- which is also called the “data-to-decision” problem. We will be integrating the data from the two robots using the General Dynamics GeoSuites software package- which is a civilian version of the command and control software used by the military. This will help us, the robot team keep up with the two groups deploying the AUV and ROV in different areas at the same time AND allow tactical responders such as Kenichi Makabe and his team of fire fighters who will be joining us  to see the fused and geolocated incoming data. GeoSuites will let multiple users have a global visual “common ground” that lets different groups get the view of the enterprise that they need, allowing me to see what everyone is doing, while letting officials start planning for removal and our GIS experts learn and start generating models of where more debris will be found.

On Way to Japan: IRS-CRASAR return to Minamisanriku-cho

We are flying out today, bringing back the SeaBotix SARbot and adding in an Oceanserver autonomous underwater vehicle, plus the EDGE network is sending GeoSuites to explore distributing the data and we have a  GIS expert from TAMU-CC.

We’ll be returning to Minamisanriku-cho, one of the two cities we visited in April. The mission that our colleagues at the International Rescue Systems Institute is quite different- we are tasked to find and clear debris in the surrounding bay. We plan to use the OceanServer AUV to quickly map portions of the bay, then use the ROV to attach a float and post it on the map and distribute it through GeoSuites. However, as Rick Smith, our GIS expert says, there’s more to cartography than putting red pins on a map- we are hoping to predict where other debris will be. GeoSuites is the civilian version of TIGR, the common operating picture software used by the US military– Brian Slaughter will be managing that. Eric Steimle (AEOS) is our lead again and Jesse is on the SARbot again.  YSI/Nanotech,  the OceanServer distributor in Japan, will meet the IRS-CRASAR team there.

Wish us well– the slow pace of recovery in Minamisanriku was reported on by the New Times here.  We are honored to join our Japanese colleagues at IRS in participatory research: learning while doing.