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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disaster Robots Needed

After the slow start the first rescue and firefighting robots from USA and Germany are on its way to Japan to assist rescue teams especially at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. According to the Japanese government the crisis might be continue for weeks or months before the damaged reactors will be under control. 

In the light of the emergency robot disaster in Japan the need of a new research and development strategy for robotics is obvious. When human workers in high-tech Japan are the best solution do the dirty and dangerous job, there must be something wrong. After billions of yen, dollar and euro invested in robotics research and prototyping isn't it time again to rethink needs, goals and funding of robotics research and development? The transfer of scientific knowledge into robotic solutions for the safety and benefit of citizens and society is urgent. The risk of natural and nuclear disasters remains high and might even increase by urbanization, climate change and technological complexity.

Demand of Disaster Robots
Urbanization continues as the construction of new nuclear power plants all over the world. According to the 2010 World Disasters Report (WDR) over half the world’s population now live in cities for the first time and more people than ever before live in slums. Urban poverty and disaster risk are often closely intertwined and the links between urban poverty and disaster risk will be increased by climate change.
The report states that the root cause of why so many people are affected by urban disasters is that a billion people live in poor-quality homes on dangerous sites with no hazard-reducing infrastructure and no services. In any given year, over 50,000 people can die as a result of earthquakes and 100 million can be affected by floods and the worst-affected are most often vulnerable city dwellers.

Disaster Robots of the Future 
Credit: WMR, University of Warwick
Next generation rescue robot solution will heavily depend on the scientific knowledge and engineering creativity of a new generation robotics students, who think out-of-the-box, innovate and share their findings via open and social media. They compete globally with great ambitions and much fun, laying the ground for smarter and more competitive technology and successful businesses.

Robocup Rescue World Champions 
One example of ambition and creativity are the students from the Warwik Mobile Robotics Group at the University of Warwick, UK. Their ambition for the 2011 European Robocup Rescue competition in Magdeburg, Germany, are high with the goal of retaining the European championship and to qualify for and enter the Robocup Rescue World Championships 2011.
To win again the team has improved the six tracks rescue robot, that won the European rescue championship at RoboCup in Germany last year, with the motion controller Kinect that saves significant sums compared with Lidar laser sensors. If they can beat their competitors with the Xbox add-on, will an exciting challenge.
Check out the presentation video below.

The RoboCupRescue Robot League is an international league of teams with one objective: develop and demonstrate advanced robotic capabilities for emergency responders using annual competitions to evaluate, and teaching camps to disseminate, best-in-class robotic solutions.

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