Monday, 11 Jun, 2007 Technology
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Robots Assist in Rescuing Disaster Victims

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Urban search and rescue robots are tested at a special 'Disaster City' training facility according to specific disaster scenarios. The robots will help rescue people in collapsed buildings and train wrecks.

Scientists will test robot performance applying actual training scenarios for emergency responders. Test results are required for improving and developing new usage guides that allow to match specific kinds of robots to particular disaster scenes.

The scientists developed two Disaster City training scenarios. The first provides a simulated collapse of a building. It will allow responders to use robots for victim searching and assisting in safe rendering of the collapsed structure for responders to rescue those victims.

Robots searching for victims will face numerous challenges while traversing confined spaces within the semi-collapsed walls of the building, damaged floors and voids. The robots will be equipped with high-tech sensors, including laser scanners for identifying the size and shape of interior voids to assist structural engineers in constructing shoring supports.

According to the second scenario, responders will use robots for investigating a train crash. It will feature a passenger train and an industrial HAZMAT tanker train transporting unidentified substances. Considering the possible dangers of the incident, at the initial stage emergency responders will have to manage work from a distance of about 492 feet. The robots will have to traverse railroad tracks and wreckage to map the disaster scene, locate victims, discover hazardous leaks and determinate tanker placards in order to identify the substances they carry.

Some robots will get a task to collect samples of unidentified substances for chemical analysis. The entire process will be remotely controlled from a safe distance. The ground robots involved in the tests will be portable, agile, or even throwable. Among the sensors featured by the robots there will be chemical sensors, color cameras, 3D mapping systems, thermal imagers, two-way audio transmitters, and GPS locators working with geographic information systems.

Such testing programs help robot developers find out what kind of emergency responders are required to perform their functions safely and effectively. In their turn, the emergency responders get an opportunity to work with a wide range of high-tech solutions according to their own deployment scenarios and then guide robot developers toward satisfying their utmost needs.

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