Rescue robots, or better known as rescue bots. These machineries seem like something born out of science fiction. However, the fact remains that they have been around for a very long time. They were made with the purpose of assisting rescue efforts in certain scenarios, such as disasters caused by natural occurrence or war. Currently, they can do simple tasks such as searching for casualties and survivors, mapping, removing rubble, and others.
Since its inception, rescue robots have been used for various occasions, like the 9/11 attacks. Plus, there are ongoing projects dedicated to developing rescue robots and making them perform better. Although rescue robots aren’t as effective as expected, they are still able to comply and help SAR teams all around the world. In honor of that, let’s take a look at some fun facts about rescue robots.
Table of Contents
- 1. Robin Murphy: the Brilliant Scientist Behind Rescue Robots
- 2. Rescue Robots Have Been Used at Some High-Profile Disasters
- 3. Rescue Robots are Still in Development by Several Projects
- 4. Daniel Goldman: the Man Behind Sandfish Lizard Robots
- 5. Plans to Make Snake Robots are Also on the Way
- 6. Centauro: IIT’s Pride
- 7. Marsupial Rescue Robots are Needed in the Future
- 8. Eight Tasks in Less Than 45 Minutes? No Problem!
- 9. Rescue Robots Cost a Lot of Money
- 10. Kikuchi Has Developed a Rescue Robot that Pulls Victims Inside Its Body
- 11. SNAPP: The SAR Fish Dubbed “the Fastest Rescue Robot”
- 12. Cheetah 3: the Highest-jumping Rescue Robot
1. Robin Murphy: the Brilliant Scientist Behind Rescue Robots
Although robots have been around for a very long time, no one has ever thought of making a rescue robot that is capable of helping out SAR teams. Thankfully, a Colorado School of Mines student returned from Oklahoma bombing and gave a eureka moment to Robin Murphy. Shortly after, she and her team earned the first grant for rescue robot research.
During the 9/11 bombing attacks, Murphy and her team was the only one to respond and deploy a rescue robot to the scene. It was the first ever recorded use of a rescue robot at a disaster site. Since then, she went on to become the founder of Roboticists Without Border at CRASAR (Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue).
2. Rescue Robots Have Been Used at Some High-Profile Disasters
Compared to other robots, rescue robots don’t look as tough and highly-advanced. However, they came in clutch, especially during disasters. To date, there are some high-profile cases that used rescue robots’ help. Previously, we have mentioned their part in helping out the SAR team during the aftermath of 9/11. Since then, they have been doing the world a favor and helping search-and-rescue teams from around the world.
One such occasion was the Amatrice earthquake in Italy. Back then, the robots were used to collect data for 3D textured models of the damaged churches in the area. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is also another example of rescue robots’ importance. Due to the radioactive nature of the area, humans turned to robots for help in collecting data for making 3D textured models.
3. Rescue Robots are Still in Development by Several Projects
We all know that the developments for rescue robots are not over. Fortunately, there are various projects dedicated to the advancement of said technology. The EU-funded NIFTi is one of the best researchers now. The project is using a ground robot and a robotic helicopter to help out in urban rescue scenarios.
Besides NIFTi, projects like SHERPA and ICARUS also manage to catch the public’s attention. SHERPA was founded with a purpose to develop a mixed ground and aerial robotic platform to support search-and-rescue activities in real-world hostile situations, while ICARUS aimed to develop unmanned search-and-rescue technologies that can detect and help humans.
4. Daniel Goldman: the Man Behind Sandfish Lizard Robots
Most rescue robots today have the shape that resembles Wall-e. Although it really looks cool, there are surely some limitations too. That’s the reason behind Daniel Goldman’s latest invention. He said that his rescue robot looks and behaves “less like an ATV and more like a sandfish lizard”. Although the robot is not ready to be deployed yet, it has made significant progress when it managed to crawl through a box of plastic beads.
Goldman’s robot prototype is relying on a chain of six motors encased in slick spandex. He was intrigued by the sandfish lizard’s skills, and hoped that his rescue robot would one day be able to swim around in rubble or debris caused by a disaster.
5. Plans to Make Snake Robots are Also on the Way
If sandfish lizard-shaped rescue robots don’t surprise you, perhaps Howie Choset’s model will. Choset envisioned a rescue robot that can “snake around and squeeze into hard-to-reach underwater space”. Furthermore, he also said that snakes have a perfect form that can be beneficial for rescue robots’ development, because they are small and strong enough.
The snake robot, or snakebot, has seen some action too. In 2017, Choset sent the snakebot to help rescue workers who have fallen victim to the Mexico City earthquake. Due to its shape, the robot can navigate past rubble and pipes and reach the victims. It has also managed to squeeze Tonight Show’s host Jimmy Fallon’s leg quite hard, further proving its strength!
6. Centauro: IIT’s Pride
Nowadays, rescue robots have a lot of shapes and forms. Gone are the traditional ATV-shaped forms. IIT even released a centaur-like rescue robot that will make you gaze in awe. This special rescue robot was named Centauro, and it is able to blast through rough terrain and austere conditions that were caused by natural disasters.
Even though the Centauro is large, it is lightweight and agile. One full charge of the robot can power it up for about 2.5 hours. It is hoped that Centauro will be able to use human tools to execute certain manipulation tasks that typical human adults can.
7. Marsupial Rescue Robots are Needed in the Future
After deploying the first ever rescue robot to action, Robin Murphy continues to dedicate her life to further developing rescue robots. Currently, she has an idea of making shapeshifting marsupial rescue robots that are based on living creatures’ behavior. This way, they can operate with a mother-daughter bond, where the mother robots are big and strong and daughter robots are nimble enough to operate in cramped quarters.
Murphy has developed Silver Bullet and Bujold, the first mother-daughter robot pairing. Both robots are bulky. Using a simple control panel, a pilot can drive Silver Bullet and eject Bujold from the internal chamber when needed. Bujold will then report the sightings to the mother robot, which in turns notify human rescuers.
8. Eight Tasks in Less Than 45 Minutes? No Problem!
Team KAIST from South Korea has to be really proud of themselves. After all, their rescue robot, the DRC-Hubo Robot, was able to complete eight natural-disaster-related tasks in less than 45 minutes. This magnificent record was set during the 2015 DARPA (Defensive Advanced Research Projects Agency) Robotics Challenge. Thanks to that feat, they received a total amount of $2 million. Other teams are performing well, but they can’t beat the DRC-Hubo Robot. The challengers included Tartan Rescue’s CHIMP and IHMC’s Atlas.
9. Rescue Robots Cost a Lot of Money
Although the premise of having rescue robots is exciting, there is one major obstacle in the development of said technology: the cost. To perform at a high level, they need advanced technology to be implemented. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of time and money, something that investors don’t like to hear. Although NASA has previously said that low-cost rescue robots are available at around $1,000, it is still a mere hypothesis. In reality, rescue robots typically cost you $50,000 to 150,000. Compared to aerial drones that cost you $1,000, it’s a bit too much, right?
10. Kikuchi Has Developed a Rescue Robot that Pulls Victims Inside Its Body
Every natural disaster has its own unique scenario. It means that rescue robots need to adapt and have different skill sets to adhere to those scenarios. Therefore, Kikuchi has taken the liberty to make a robot that can pull a victim from a disaster site to its body. The rescue robot can be used for several occasions such as chemical, biological, radiological, or natural disasters.
Although the notion is very interesting, Kikuchi isn’t going to part ways with this product easily. They’re offering $110,000 for companies who are going to buy this awesome robot. It is expected that they can sell at least 10 units per year.
11. SNAPP: The SAR Fish Dubbed “the Fastest Rescue Robot”
Who would have thought that a robotic fish will be able to swim so fast and reach its intended target in mere seconds? In fact, this particular fish, dubbed “SNAPP”, was able to swim and break the world record as the fastest rescue robot, clocking at 2.3 m/s.
BREED, the robotic research organization behind the inception of SNAPP, doesn’t make SNAPP just for bragging rights. After all, drowning is one of the leading causes of injury and death. Therefore, timing is essential, and it is hoped that SNAPP will be able to help a lot of people from dying too fast!
12. Cheetah 3: the Highest-jumping Rescue Robot
Behold Cheetah 3, the rescue robot that managed to break the Guinness World Record by performing the highest standing jump by a quadruped robot. In July 2018, it managed to reach 31 inches (78.74 cm). The technique used by this robot is quite unique. In a video published on the 4th of July, 2018, Cheetah pushed down its front two legs while squatting on its rear legs. A moment later, the rear legs were extended and it projectile upwards.