Robin Murphy offers suggestions to Japanese government for faster international deployments of rescue robots

Photo of Dr. Robin MurphyDr. Robin Murphy, a pioneer in the area of rescue robotics, spoke to the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) Dec. 11 in Tokyo.

Murphy directs the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and is the Raytheon Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.

NEDO is a new Japanese agency focusing on increasing Japan’s industrial competitiveness. The agency is considering creating an international rescue robot team for disasters. Murphy provided a unique perspective as the leader in robot deployments, having participated 15 disasters including the World Trade Center collapse, Hurricanes Charley and Katrina, and Fukushima Daiichi.

“Life saving activities are effectively over after three days,” Murphy said, “but robots aren’t being used on average until four days after the disaster — too late to make a difference.”

In the case of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear event, suitable Japanese and U.S. robots were already in Japan and could have been used immediately, but due to a lack of information, trust in the robots, and other concerns, the first aerial and ground robots were not used until a month after the event.

Money has not been the barrier, Murphy said. She described how companies have consistently donated robots and experts with no charge for disasters the through the CRASAR Roboticists Without Borders program.

Murphy made three recommendations. First, the U.S. and Japan should work together to establish relationships between countries and agencies in order to improve the understanding of rescue robots and to enable rapid deployment. Second, governments should provide funding for transportation, logistics, and preparatory activities such as training and vetting robots. Third, there should be clear mechanisms to provide feedback to the robotics industry and to research so they can continue to improve designs. For more on the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue visit www.crasar.org.

TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

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