Firefighting, Hazmat, Tech Zone

Firefighting Technology: Cloud Enhances Innovation in Robotics for Disaster Response

By Mary Jane Dittmar

“Cloud computing is driving innovation and expediting research around the world,” according to Nathan Day, chief scientist, IBM’s SoftLayer. As an example, Day points to Take Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-sponsored DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). The DRC’s objective is to identify innovative methods for deploying robots for disaster-response evolutions.

This was the first competition in which DARPA incorporated a cloud-based simulation stage, Day notes. The Virtual Robotics Challenge, run over the cloud, made it possible for more than 100 teams from around the world to compete from remote locations. These winners will then engage in competition with physical robots at a live event.

DARPA’s future strategic plans include using robots for humanitarian efforts and disaster relief for victims of natural and man-made disasters, thereby decreasing health and other risks for rescue and humanitarian aid workers.

The applications for robotics technology in other areas such as government and business span the vastness of imagination, Day suggests. He provides a “glimpse” of a robot CHEETAH that “can gallop at 18 miles per hour and set a new land speed record for legged robots” and lauds ATLAS, an upright robot that is “one of the most advanced humanoids ever built.”

The cloud has made these advancements possible, Day explains, “by providing advanced, scalable computing power on-demand over the Internet.”

Day’s article is at

Additional information on DARPA’s virtual robotics:

Mary Jane DittmarMARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.