Rescue Robot Exercise Brings Together Robots, Developers, First Responders

Nov 25, 2008
Robots are being trained to map spaces using their sensors. This robot travels through a simulated "wooded area" that has uneven terrain and randomly placed PVC pipes as "trees." It sends back data to researchers who use mapping algorithms to create a map. Credit: Texas Engineering Extension Service

The National Institute of Standards and Technology held a rescue robot exercise in Texas last week in which about three dozen robots were tested by developers and first responders in order to develop a standard suite of performance tests to help evaluate candidate mechanical rescuers. This exercise was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to develop performance standards for robots for use in urban search and rescue missions.

Urban search and rescue robots assist first responders by performing such tasks as entering partially collapsed structures to search for living victims or to sniff out poisonous chemicals. NIST is developing robot standards for testing in cooperation with industry and government partners.

“It is challenging to develop the test standards as the robots are still evolving,” explained Elena Messina, acting chief of the Intelligent Systems Division, “because standards are usually set for products already in use. But it is critical for developers to be able to compare results, which is not possible without reproducible test environments. So, we have reproducible rough terrain that everyone can build in their labs, whereas you can’t reproduce a rubble pile. This way, developers in Japan can run tests, and people in Chicago can understand what the robot achieved.”

The event took place at Disaster City, Texas, a test facility run by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). The facility offers an airstrip, lakes, train wrecks and rubble piles that can be arranged for many types of challenging tests.

Exercises included testing battery capacity by having robots perform figure eights on an undulating terrain and mobility tests in which robots ran through increasingly challenging exercises beginning with climbing steps and escalating to climbing ramps and then making it up steps with unequal gaps. A new mapping challenge introduced at this event tests how accurate a robot-generated map can be—the robot must traverse a simulated “wooded area” that has uneven terrain and PVC pipes for trees, and create a map using its sensors. Researchers came from across the globe to collect data to feed into their mapping algorithms. NIST researchers developing ultra-high-resolution three-dimensional sensors also participated.

Communications and manipulator tests were performed and discussed at the November exercise will be submitted to ASTM International as a potential rescue robot test standard.

To see the robots in action, three videos can be viewed at the Disaster City TEEX Web site: www.teexblog.blogspot.com/ .

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: SRI microrobots show fast-building factory approach (w/ video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA set to debut online software catalog April 10

Apr 05, 2014

(Phys.org) —Get ready for a stimulating software catalog. You may want to write NASA CAT. next to Thursday, April 10, on your calendar. That is the day that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

Robots learning to work with humans

Apr 02, 2014

With the advent of "inherently safe" robots, industrial designers are changing their ideas about the factory of the future. Robots such as ABB's Frida and the Baxter robot from MIT spinoff Rethink Robotics ...

NREL driving research on hydrogen fuel cells

Mar 25, 2014

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) were the belles of the ball at recent auto shows in Los Angeles and Tokyo, and researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ...

Autosub Long Range ready to cast off

Mar 21, 2014

Autosub Long Range, a state-of-the-art autonomous underwater vehicle developed by the National Oceanography Centre, is about to be launched for a 30-day scientific expedition off the coast of Donegal in Ireland.

Recommended for you

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

19 hours ago

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

Apr 16, 2014

Talk about your Craigslist finds! A team of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) combined inspiration with innovation to make a $250 ...

Using robots to study evolution

Apr 14, 2014

A new paper by OIST's Neural Computation Unit has demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. Published in PLOS ONE, Stefan Elfwing, a researcher in Professor Kenji Doya's Unit, has succes ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear energy

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy industry under intense scrutiny since the Fukushima disaster, the ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...