Robin Murphy reports to NSF on Robots at Japan Disaster

Photo of Dr. Robin MurphyTexas A&M computer science and engineering professor Dr. Robin Murphy will brief the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va., Tuesday (May 24) about recent experiences inspecting port areas as well as searching for bodies trapped in flotsam or under submerged rubble following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Murphy, who is also director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR), led a team of research and industry experts and robots to the Minami Sanriku and Rikuzen Takata areas of Japan. Murphy also assisted in the use of aerial vehicles used for inspecting the Fukushima reactors.

NSF co-funded the joint Japan-United States team that worked for five days in April using three different types of suitcase-size underwater robots called remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

Two of the robots have advanced imaging sonars that can penetrate the murky water along with video cameras. The robots were deployed at six locations along the coast north of Sendai, working in areas that were unsafe for Japanese Coast Guard divers.  The robots did not find any bodies but received praise from Minami Sanriku Mayor Hitoshi Sato who said that the city's port facility, essential to the fishing industry, would be reopened based on the robot data.

The talk will give a short overview of known robots assisting with all aspects of the disaster, then concentrate on the joint Japan-US participatory research with ROVs. The talk will use extensive video to discuss the findings and areas needed for additional research.

See and for links to example photos and video footage of robots, robot-eye views, and general operations. Higher resolution b-roll is available upon request.