The nature of the high-risk environments in which rescuers work has been a challenge as long as there have been disasters to rescue victims from. During the Mexico City earthquake in 1985, 135 rescuers died - 65 of these due to flooding in collapsed structures. Robots are able to go into places where humans cannot. Environments with low oxygen, extreme heat, high toxicity or with small entrances are all suited better to robots then humans.
A body of research and development work exists in the emerging field of Urban Search and Rescue or USAR. It has been broadly defined as “the strategy, tactics, and operations for locating, providing medical treatment, and extrication of entrapped victims.”
There are many different disaster scenarios and each one is different. Many different robots have been developed to overcome the various challenges posed by these disaster sites.
The Robotics and Agents Research Lab is developing robots to be used in rescue.
Initially work was focused on a larger robot that could navigate over rough terrain easily, could communicate with trapped victims and use a multi degree of freedom arm to perform complex tasks. This robot was called RATEL and competed in the Mexico Robocup in the Rescue division. Click here to read more...
However further investigation around the topic suggests that these larger robots have limitations in disaster sites. They are large, heavy and very complex. They often do not fit into the small voids created by collapsed buildings.
To address these and other issues a project was begun to design a low cost, man-packable, throwable rescue robot called Scarab. This tiny robot can be used by research institutes, police forces, rescue operators, armed response and firefighters for anything from victim location to surveillance. Click here to read more...