Natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and hurricanes are part and parcel for life on planet Earth. Experts handle the threats of these emergency situations with careful preparation as well as immediate mitigation and abatement. Nevertheless, as evidenced by devastation resulting from the recent tornados and wildfires in Colorado, hurricanes in the Atlantic and earthquakes along the Pacific Northwest, we are already well on our way to a dangerous tipping point in our ability to sufficiently and safely respond to and recover from disasters.
- Specially designed robots have legs built to navigate mountainous terrain and move injured firefighters out of harm’s way. Is it just me or isn’t this something that dogs can do?
- Some robots are built to treats oil spills on the spot, without using harsh chemical dispersants. Robots release bacteria which gobble up oil and use a sonic emitter to keep ocean wildlife away from the fray. I like to gobble up turkey. But petroleum is not on my list of favorite snacks.
- Researchers are working to network the various robots and sensor systems first responders use so that they can react more quickly and efficiently in emergencies to search for victims and survivors.
- MIT researchers Jean-Jacques Slotine and Patrick Bechon coordinated the behavior of eight dancing humanoid robots by having the bots send information to—and get information from—an external computer server. This development is important because it will allow robots to work together, in teams, for emergency response in places that are unsafe for humans. I, for one, appreciate the willingness of robots to step in for search & rescue dogs.
- The Army Corps of Engineers boasts a team which has built a highly maneuverable robotic bomb detection system, which is capable of distinguishing between a grenade and a tin can. I can tell the difference between a can of tuna and a can of dog food. So maybe I could apply for bomb detection duty.
- Drug-dispensing robots can quickly prepare intravenous medications in sterile environments. This technology is useful in cases of quarantine.
- Specifically-designed mining robots lead search & rescue efforts following mining cave-ins.
- Japanese officials deployed wheeled and snake-like robots to assist emergency responders in the search for survivors of the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami.
- Researcher Eiji Koyanagi of the Chiba Institute of Technology’s Future Robotics Technology Center created a robot called Quince that can probe hazardous sites after a disaster. The robot rolls on treads and can sense chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear dangers in areas that firefighters can’t reach. With an onboard camera, Quince can move about 5.2 feet per second. I don’t mean to brag, but I can move a lot faster than Quince.
- The Institute of Technology in Tokyo designed a serpentine machine that is capable of slithering around debris. The robot uses a thermographic camera designed to detect body heat under rubble.
- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced in April the creation of an ambitious robotics program aimed at revolutionizing disaster response robots.
- The United States’ military has created a water-to-land machine which is capable of moving cargo containers and a support module with ready-made electricity. The vehicles are called Captive Air Amphibious Transporters. I’ve always been able to maneuver from water to land.
- American military personnel count future disaster relief operations to include parachuting robots and swimming tractors capable of delivering huge cargo containers to shore. Such technologies designed by the U.S. military could offload needed humanitarian supplies from cargo ships without nearby ports or specialized military ships.
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