In the event of a natural disaster, rescuing other people can be a great risk and potentially fatal. By using robots in these critical areas, we could save trapped victims and prevent further human casualties.
After the magnitute 6.9 earthquake which struck Japan in 1995, scientists in Tokyo began experimenting with the use of robots to enter disaster zones to rescue people. It was believed these machines could reach humans trapped under buildings or stuck in crevasses where others could not.
Tadokoro Satoshi, a professor at Tohoku University, designed a miniature robot with an attached camera that can enter a site and search for victims without risking more human life.
The Institute of Technology in Tokyo designed a serpentine machine that is capable of slithering around debris and has a thermographic camera installed to detect body heat under rubble.
These robots have been successful in Japan and have sparked interest here in America for investigating collapsed buildings. Whether or not they will actually be used for disaster relief efforts has yet to be determined.
This technology has to be one of the best ideas for search and rescue efforts after a major disaster. After the recent quake in Japan, stories came out explaining how trapped victims used their cell phones to help rescuers find them. Why not utilize technology to track down a person by the gizmos they may have on them?
The most popular rescue robot is named Quince from Tohoku University. It’s designed as a two-part body on belt that is capable of maneuvering through all types of situations. Two arms are connected in order to pull humans out of rubble or lift debris.
Quince is expected to be given to the fire departments in Kobe and Chiba as a rescue robot, instead of solely gathering information for assessment purposes.
It must be emphasized that these robots are only to be used in the most extreme cases where humans could not possibly enter a zone without the risk of becoming a victim. Human rescue operations are more favorable because of onsite judgment and analysis.
Currently, these machines would not be able to go into disaster zones where massive floods have caused the primary damage. However, the tsunami that hit Japan may be an exception, since most of the water has receded, allowing these robots to efficiently search.
With any type of invention used to replace a human job, there will always be controversy or resistance. One of the main arguments is how will a robot be able to safely pull a person out from under rubble without causing further injury. That is one question scientists are struggling to solve before putting these machines on the forefront of rescue.
Even though robots can make mistakes, so can humans. Therefore, as long as we can make the distinction and not completely rely on these robots to perform every single rescue, then these machines will be beneficial.