Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Search & rescue robots, the high tech tsunami heroes (Sendai, earthquake, Japan)

Search & rescue robots, the high tech tsunami heroes

Japan's rescue teams were just not enough after the razing tsunami and a massive earthquake brought destruction to many coastline villages. The manned teams can use searchdogs and perform basic first aid operations such as searching for survivors and helping them medically. But what when the survivors are below a big pile of debrids/carriage caused by a collapsed house?
This is where multiple robot-aided teams came to the rescue. The first team was led by Prof. Eiji Koyanagi from Chiba Institute of Technology, the second led by Prof. Fumitoshi Matsuno from Kyoto University, who's vice president of the International Rescue System Institute. 2 other teams based in Tokyo and Sendai are currently on Standby.
Both professors are highly renowned names in the field of roboticism. They split up into 2 teams to cover as much ground as possible. Their gear consisted out of highly advanced instant-deployable ground and snake-like robots. When needed, the teams are ready to travel anywhere their services are required.
Team 1 led by Prof. Koyanagi is equiped with a robot that can inspect underwater infrastructure. We can not give you many specifics about the robots, nor was the company that produces them mentioned when asked. Team 2 was in charge to help inspect a building with collapsed ceiling. Working together with the Hachinohe Institute of Technology they send in a ground robot called KOHGA3.
More and more robotized units are being mobilized in Japan since they can crawl into places most of the time unreachable to human possibility. Although the primary nature of these robots isn't what most people would expect, they are mainly used to infiltrate their way into highly damaged buildings to check how they can be repaired or reconstructed. Highly useful for buildings and facilities containing dangerous substances such as chemical plants and certain nuclear areas.
One of the robots used in the rescue is called "Quince", a part of the NEDO project (Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) who is an all terrain crawler used to access and report back remote areas inhospitable to humans.
You can find a small youtube clip of the KOHGA3 robot in action during a recent exercise in Disaster City. This is a simulation held in Texas where world's largest training facility for urban search & rescue is located.

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