Hazmat, Tech Zone, Technical Rescue

Robotics Experts and Emergency Responders Gather at Disaster City

Disasters continue world-wide with responders called upon to assist the victims involved. One of the many tools responders now have are robotic platforms, and for the fourth year in a row robotics experts and emergency responders are gathering at TEEX’s Disaster City in College Station, Texas, to evaluate and test the latest generation of robots. Emergency responders from across the globe are participating, including FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams; federal, state and local bomb squads; and police/SWAT teams, helping to validate emerging standard robot test methods, become familiar with available robot capabilities, and advise robot developers regarding operational requirements.
Currently, ground robots and other unmanned systems are widely deployed by the military performing dangerous tasks such as bomb disposal and reconnaissance which otherwise would require risking soldiers lives. Similarly, robots have the potential of helping take civilian emergency responders out of harm’s way and augmenting their capabilities. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has funded an effort with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop comprehensive standards related to the development, testing, and certification of effective technologies for Urban Search and Rescue robotics. These US&R robotic performance standards include sensing, mobility, navigation, planning, integration, and operator control in order to ensure that the robots meet operational requirements under the extremely challenging conditions that rescuers frequently are faced with, including long endurance missions. Where appropriate, the standards will also address issues of robotic component interoperability. The US&R robotic standards effort focuses on fostering collaboration between first responders, robot manufacturers, other government agencies, and technology developers to advance consensus standards for task specific robot capabilities and interoperability of components. These standards will allow DHS to provide guidance to local, state, and Federal homeland security entities regarding the purchase, deployment and use of robots for US&R applications. A variety of robots covering land, air and water are participating in the evaluation including ground units, aquatic bots, and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerials bots under 5 lbs. Robots will capture performance data within emerging standard test methods developed to evaluate Logistics, Mobility, Manipulation, Sensors, Radio Communications, Energy, Human-System Interaction, and Localization/Mapping capabilities. Robots will then be deployed with responders to perform operational tasks in practice scenarios.