International roboticists to offer response lessons for Hurricane Sandy

November 1, 2012
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Leading robotics researchers from 10 countries will meet in College Station Nov. 5-8 for the annual IEEE Symposia on Safety Security and Rescue Robotics.

The nearly 100 scientists will share findings on how rescue robots are being used throughout the world and discuss advances needed to help responders address disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy. Land, sea, and aerial robots were first used at the World Trade Center disaster and have been used in at least 26 disasters since. Most recently they were used at Fukushima after the Japan tsunami.

The conference will produce a roadmap of additional advances needed to get these tools into the hands of more emergency workers.

"The timing with Hurricane Sandy is particularly meaningful," said Dr. Robin Murphy, director of the TEES Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) and the Raytheon Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M. "Rescue robotics really took off because of 9/11 and here at the 10th anniversary of our conference, we are once again focused on New York."

Murphy has participated in 15 disasters, including the World Trade Center collapse, hurricanes Charley, Wilma, Dennis and Ike, and the Tohoku tsunami.

Unlike purely academic symposia, the majority of the 43 papers report on practical results from responders and police who used new types of robots, sensors, and human-robot interfaces in the field. One set of papers describes how military and commercially available robots have been used for underwater and aerial inspection of bridges and roads damaged by flooding, hurricanes, or tsunamis. Others present results on using ground robots for exploring rubble and helping to care for and extract victims.

The symposium also includes emerging technologies such as sophisticated snake-like robots and "soft robots" which use fluids and shape alloys to flow through rubble.

This year's symposia will feature Dr. Satoshi Tadokoro and Dr. Hajime Asama who were active in the use of robots for Fukushima and the Tokohu earthquake and tsunami. Dr. Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which was inspired by the inability of workers at Fukushima to enter key areas of the facility to vent hydrogen in time to prevent an explosion, will also be featured.

Attendees will tour the 279-acre emergency preparedness campus of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which that includes Disaster City®, and will meet with responders.

TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

For more on the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue visit www.crasar.org, and for more on the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and Disaster City®, visit www.teex.com.

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