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TEEX-Tested Robotic Technology to Aid in Search and Rescue

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

It's like a scene out of a sci-fi movie: robots manning the grounds, scaling walls, and even flying.

However, it's not science-fiction. Disaster City, created by the Texas Engineering Extension Service, is testing robots that could save lives.

"We are here working with responders and with robot manufacturers to try and understand how robots could be used in emergency response, particularly in urban search and rescue," Elena Messina, Program Manager for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said.

Rescue workers from all across the nation gathered at Disaster City to test out some the latest and greatest in robotic technology. They are robots being tested are equipped with cameras, chemical sensors, GPS technology, and thermal imagers that could one day play a crucial role in search and rescue.

"We're testing them to see if they can actually move through different types of environments that they need to go through, be it rubble or very, very small spaces," Messina said.

Officials with the National Institute of Standards and Technology have been in the area all week testing the robots and gaining valuable insight from responders.

"Lots of good feedback because with the robots, the way they are designed currently off the shelf are not really mobile to the degree we need them to be," Texas Task Force 1 Program Director for Urban Search and Rescue Billy Parker said, "so the responders are giving some good feedback to the developers so they can work on better ways to design the robots."

The testing marks the fourth in a series of robot evaluations, and the second conducted at Disaster City. Responders say the technology allows them to go places impossible before.

"They can get in places where humans typically cannot because of the hazardous materials or sometimes even the space," Parker said. "We have some robots that are snake pro cams that can get into an area of a half inch wide. Obviously people can't go there."

Responders and developers alike are hoping these specialized robots can take search and rescue teams to the next level of technology .

The program is being put on by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.


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