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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Robots created for disaster relief

Imagine a disaster has struck. Buildings have collapsed, cars are buried in the rubble and toxic fumes fill the air. The area is unsafe for rescuers to excavate, and the size of the destruction area is unknown. That’s where robots would come in.
This week Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Task Force hosted the Response Robot Evaluation Exercise at A&M’s Disaster City. The disaster simulation area, which is the only one of its kind in the world, contains several buildings, a derailed train, debris, a huge mound of concrete, rubble, metal scraps and building materials scattered all throughout the field, with victims located in various places. Emergency responders worked with robot technicians to locate victims, scale the area and remove debris as effectively as possible.
Training Coordinator Brian Smith said the Urban Search and Rescue has two main goals for the robots: First, search and find a person and second, clear debris off victims. Smith said 28 FEMA teams from across the country have provided the robots to test their skills in emergency response.
“We’re trying to figure out what these robots can do,” Smith said. “The guys that design them are able to really work the robots in a realistic search environment and can get input from US&R (Urban Search and Rescue) personnel to provide feedback.”
Smith said some areas are too dangerous or small for humans to get to, and some things are too expensive.
“If I can show up at the scene with my own way to send in a robot, that would be much cheaper than having a helicopter come,” he said.
Elena R. Messina, group leader for the United States Department of Commerce, said the tests will help develop performance standards for the robots.
“We’re trying to figure out what types of robots work better where, and the technicians are getting some first-hand experience using the robots in scenarios,” Messina said.
Jim Daniels, a technician from Remotec, Inc. who’s specialty is bomb robots, said the robot technology has been building steadily.
“Now we’re looking at how we can take this technology, improve it and change it to make it applicable for search and rescue,” he said.
Daniels said what the robots are lacking is better radio technology. He said the technology is in its beginning stages, but lots of growth can be expected.
“Cell phones are only 13 years old, and if you look at how fast they’ve evolved, we have a lot to look forward to in the future,” he said.
Randy Miller of the New York Task Force said mobility, communications and human interface need to be improved in the robots. He said some robots are doing better than expected and are able to traverse through rough terrain better.

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