Robotic first responders
| 08.31.2006 | 07:01:07 | Views: 2947 | ID:
August 31 '06: Disaster response crews and military personnel are relying more on robotic assistance in the field despite some drawbacks. Using new technology and increased dexterity, the machines "are being tested for use in military situations and civilian catastrophes," McClatchey News Services reported Wednesday. However many say that humans and dogs are still the best tools to use in recovery, response and emergency situations.
During a demonstration at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, developers tested their robots' ability to maneuver and respond to commands. "Unfortunately, even the newest gadgets sometimes didn't work as well as their makers or their users had hoped," McClatchey reported."During one demonstration, eight out of the 16 robots failed a simple test. They were supposed to drive to a set of checkpoints, but their radios interfered with one another's signals so badly that they could not communicate with their controllers." David Lesh, a first responder leader for the Federal Emergency Management Agency team in Riverside, California told McClatchey that dogs "were our most valuable asset" during Hurricane Katrina. But, after seeing some of the performances by the robots during the demonstration in Maryland Lesh said he was impressed. "I've seen stuff here I never thought would be possible." During the test, snakelike robots "with cameras on their heads wriggled into tiny spaces where a person couldn't fit. Robots rolling on miniature tank tracks climbed stairs and flipped onto their backs to scramble over obstacles. A diminutive helicopter buzzed overhead, sending back pictures below. A power mower-sized robot popped the hood, opened the trunk and yanked the door off of a car that could have concealed a bomb," McClatchey reported. Mark Hundley, a hazardous-materials specialist from Virginia Beach, VA. told McClatchey, the robots "would have been a big help in New Orleans."
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