Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot

But while Gemini-Scout is impressive, it’s not the only rescue robot that first responder teams have in their arsenal.


Biomimicry comes to the rescue with this snakebot, an inch-thin, 26-foot long robot propelled by nylon bristles, which are powered by a motor. Moving at the relatively slow speed of two inches per second, the bot can wriggle around corners, move through tiny gaps, and climb large inclines. The bot can’t rescue people by itself--or even provide supplies--but an attached camera can help search and rescue teams locate disaster victims. The snakebot, designed by researcher Satoshi Tadokoro, was used after this year’s Japanese tsunami and earthquake.


This bot, developed by researchers at the Future Robotics Technology Center, comes with a camera, CO2 sensors, a door opener, speakers, a mic, and an infrared thermography camera. The bot was also used after the Japan disaster to locate survivors in hard-to-reach areas. More recently, a modified version of Quince was sent to the Fukushima nuclear plant to measure radiation.


Like the snakebot, DASH takes its cues from nature--the tiny robot combines the durability of the cockroach with the gecko’s climbing ability. Created by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod) could be equipped with CO2 detectors to find survivors in a disaster. The ultra-cheap bot could also be used to detect future problems before they happen. Berkeley researchers speculate that DASH could explore bridges with its gecko-like feet, and predict when parts might be about to collapse with cheap sensors that detect abnormal vibrations.


Like the snakebot, GoQBot can fit into small spaces to find disaster survivors--but it can move significantly faster. Created by researchers at Tufts University, the GoQBot imitates the caterpillar’s "ballistic roll"--a move where the critter curls itself up into a ball and propel itself away from enemies. The silicone rubber robot contains shape memory alloy coils that allow it to curl up into a "q" shape and roll away at over one and a half feet per second.


The Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network (SMAVNET), a project developed at the French Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, consists of tiny flying robots that move in swarms. The robots, which are made from plastic foam and contain lithium ion battery-powered electric motors, each have an autopilot that controls air speed, altitude, and turn rate. The SMAVNET bots communicate with each other using optical flow sensors. Eventually, researchers hope that SMAVNET could be used to allow rescue workers to communicate during a disaster (the bots could be equipped with wireless modules that form an ad-hoc network). The bots could also be used for aerial photography, surveying the landscape to find sites where people may need rescuing.



Six Rescue Robots That Could Save Your Life

If you’re ever trapped in a mine or hurt after an earthquake, these are the helpful machines that may come to your rescue.

The just-announced Gemini-Scout robot, a product of Sandia Labs, can withstand explosions, crawl over boulders, find its way through 18 inches of water, and navigate through rubble piles. With these skills, the bot can deliver food, air packs, and medicine to miners trapped underground before human rescue teams can arrive. The robot, which measures less than four feet long and two feet tall, can also assess potential hazards for future rescue teams, who can lead the bot with a rigged Xbox 360 game controller.

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