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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Robot rescuers ready to roll
World Trade Center rubble, AP
Robots can reach places hazardous to humans
Robots will soon be working alongside humans in emergencies and disasters.

An emergency response team of robots and their handlers has been created following the success of the machines in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.

The robots were used to search places too hazardous for humans or to make sure it was safe for humans to clear wreckage and retrieve bodies.

Now a team is ready to respond 24-hours per day and can be ready to move within four hours of being called upon, reportED New Scientist magazine.

Disaster relief

The team is made up of seven tracked robots plus technicians and a doctor.

It also has its own emergency response vehicle and a trailer that carries the robots, as well as repair facilities.

The members of the team have been through training to prepare them to operate at sites of natural disasters as well as chemical and biological incidents.

The value of the robot rescue team was proven at Ground Zero when a variety of machines fitted with video cameras were used to probe cavities in the rubble to see if the area was safe for human recovery workers.

Microtrack robot, Crasar
Robots can squeeze into spaces too small for people
The robots were also used to find human remains in spaces too small for people to enter.

The machines helped locate the remains of 10 victims during the nine days that the robot team was at Ground Zero.

Dr Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at the University of South Florida, said the robots had been standardised and updated since the September 2001.

Now robots are fitted with sensors to help them spot if someone is still alive. The robots can look for a pulse, for body heat fluctuations that reveal if a body is breathing and for raised carbon dioxide levels near a body.

The team is also working on improving the quality of the video images that the robots pipe back to their handling team. Before now robot handlers have missed some remains because they were not distinct enough on video screens.

The scientists predicts that within a decade, robots will be as common as dogs in the aftermath of a disaster.

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
10 Apr 99 | Science/Nature
16 Jul 01 | Europe
24 Apr 01 | Americas
01 May 02 | Science/Nature
24 Feb 01 | San Francisco
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