Robots from around the world go underground at Disaster City

Dr. Robin Murphy with Survivor Buddy

Robots and researchers from Japan, the United States and the U.S. military converged on Disaster City® in College Station, Texas, March 8 to conduct two days of underground mine rescue and tunnel exploration experiments.

Teams brought new types of ground robots, from miniature tank-like vehicles to metallic snakes, to test their abilities in moving through narrow voids to find survivors or capture smugglers. Demonstrated advances could lead to immediate adoption of small robots for mine disasters such as in Chile and New Zealand, as well as for locating victims trapped deep within buildings after earthquakes.

The event was co-sponsored by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and will feature RESPOND-R, a $2 million test instrument being built by Texas A&M University with funding from the National Science Foundation that allows researchers to "mix and match" robot, sensor, network, and human interaction data collection modules for different types and scales of disasters.

International robotics researchers frequent Disaster City because it is the largest test site in the world with the most diverse types of rubble. The 52-acre Disaster City was constructed by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in 1998 in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to provide a new level of realism in training.

The researchers deployed their robots in challenging scenarios created by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M. CRASAR - a center in the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and led by Dr. Robin Murphy, Raytheon Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering - has deployed land, air, and sea robots to nearly a dozen disasters, beginning with first use of rescue robots at the World Trade Center after 9/11. The scenarios will be based on the findings from a major study of underground mine rescue conducted by CRASAR team members for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The field exercises concluded with a half-day workshop on the main campus of Texas A&M.

Brian Blake, TEEX Public Relations Director
979-324-8995 (cell) or 979-458-6837 (office)