A video from Carnegie Mellon University Biorobotics Lab demonstrates how the snakelike robots developed by the lab can aid search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings.
It shows a snake robot exploring a pancaked building and demonstrate how effectively it can be deployed by an dog, described as a rescue canine.
This footage comes from TEEX Disaster City, created by Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service to simulate various levels of disaster and wreckage in order to train emergency response teams.
However, it brings to mind the current real disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh where an 8-storey building collapsed on April 24th, the same day the video was posted on You Tube, trapping some three thousand people, of whom at least 362 are now know to have died.
The video shows how a snake robot can navigate through tight spaces and through narrow access points to perform search and rescue tasks. Specifically in a scenario such as the current one in Dhakar it has three important capabilities:
Navigate tightly packed volumes It can fit through and locomote within tightly packed volumes that may be encountered in a collapsed building or a pile of rubble.
Deploy through a small access point It can fit through small access openings and then locomote through the variety of environments it encounters.
Locate and Communicate with Victims It isequipped with a camera to help locate victims, and can be outfitted with a two-way speaker/microphone to enable communication with victims.
In Bangladesh rescue teams, helped by members of the community, have so far worked with small tools and their bare hands to bring out survivors. After five day the next phase will be to use heavy equipment. Having a snake robot that could provide pictures from within the building would certainly aid both phases of the operation, leading to speedier and more effective rescue operations.
It raises the question of why this technology is still a research project and not deployed?
It could be deployed and developed at the same time.