AI News, Japan Earthquake: Robots Help Search For Survivors

Japan Earthquake: Robots Help Search For Survivors

(There is no information about the presence of robots at Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plants, though that would be an ideal application for teleoperated repair and inspection robots.) Dr. Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue(CRASAR)at Texas AM University, in College Station, and one of the world's top experts in rescue robotics, confirms that a team led by Satoshi Tadokoro of Tohoku University, in Sendai, and a team led by Eiji Koyanagi from Chiba Institute of Technology's Future Robotics Technology Center, have deployed, or are about to deploy, their robots.

small unmanned aerial vehicles like robotic helicopters and quadrotors for inspection of upper levels of buildings and lower altitude checks • snake robots capable of entering collapsed buildings and slithering through rubble • small underwater ROVs for bridge inspection and underwater recovery • tether-based unmanned ground vehicles like sensor-packed wheeled robots that operators can drive remotely to search for survivors As it happened, Japan's leading rescue robotics experts, a cadre led by Dr. Tadokoro, who heads the International Rescue Systems Institute, were actually in the United States when the earthquake hit!

According to a 2007 paper, the Active Scope Camerais a snake-type of robot whose body is covered by 'cilia,' small filaments that vibrate, allowing the robot to crawlat a speed of 4.7 centimeters per second, climb over obstacles, follow walls, and make turns in tight spaces.

Tohoku and Fukushima: A Story of Collaboration in Rescue Robotics

By Dr. Robin Murphy, Director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, Texas A&M University When I talk about the use of rescue robots in Japan for the triple disasters of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear emergency, people always seem astounded by two facts.

It was apparent that these mobile creatures eventually could be used to penetrate deep in the rubble where responders could not see or to quickly lift huge chunks of debris blocking the way.

Dr. Satoshi Tadokoro of Tohoku University and I began collaborating in 1998 and he started the International Rescue System Institute (IRS) in Japan in 2002 shortly after the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) was founded in the U.S. We had just finished a productive week of working at Disaster City with IRS successfully testing Quince’s improved mobility in different rubble piles and tunnels (which would be of help in their later deployment at Fukushima).

The real need was for marine robots, either robot boats or underwater robots that could carry sonars capable of seeing through murky water.

The marine robots would be unlikely to help with saving lives, but they could help with economic recovery: determining the status of the underwater portions of bridges, ports, and seawalls;

The majority of unmanned marine vehicles are made in the U.S. We recommended ROVs because they can be operated from the shore (solving the lack of boats in the area) and are better for inspecting bridges.

IRS members, now back in Japan, agreed with our assessment and immediately began approaching officials at all levels of government from Tokyo to the northern prefectures to understand their needs and to offer these unique robots at no cost to them if they were skeptical about how they worked and did not want to contract with a distributor.

They agreed to donate equipment (including not demanding payment if it was lost or damaged) and up to 10 days of personnel time, as well as to share all data.

The T-Hawk flies like a helicopter but the rotating parts are protected inside the “barrel,” which is an advantage for working close to buildings where a gust of wind may bump the UAV into a wall.

Although the exact data has not been released by TEPCO, the Honeywell T-Hawks flew over 40 missions from April to June plus assisted TEPCO and authorities with operations in the surrounding areas outside the facility.

The SARbot ROV covered 80,000 sq meters in only six hours in the water, finding and tagging the GPS locations of 104 major objects that needed to be removed.

In addition to the humanitarian use of the robots for response and recovery, we have learned many lessons for the scientific community that will help improve the performance, sensors, and interfaces for these robots and make robots easier to use by anyone from anywhere in the world over the Internet.

In retrospect, it is ironic that while the international press was criticizing Japan for having dancing robots but not robots at Fukushima, Westinghouse was bringing in the T-Hawk and IRS was too busy working with CRASAR and on upgrading Quince for Fukushima to engage in media response.

None of this would have been possible without the years of international collaboration enabled by joint NSF-JST funding and by the diplomats from both countries rising to the challenges posed by importing cutting edge technology during a disaster.

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Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing news coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency.

The roboticists, led by Fumitoshi Matsuno, a professor at Kyoto University and vice president of the International Rescue System Institute, used their KOHGA3 robot, a tank-like machine equipped with cameras and sensors, to carry out the mission.

Several robotics teams have been on standby throughout Japan, ready to assist in rescue and recovery operations after the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country early this month.

Matsuno's group set up the operator station -- a laptop computer with a video game-style controller attached -- at a safe location near the entrance.

The KOHGA3 has powerful motors and four sets of tracks that allow it to traverse rubble, climb steps, and go over inclines up to 45 degrees.

The robot carries three CCD cameras, a thermal camera, laser scanner, LED light, attitude sensor, and a gas sensor.

Its 4-degrees-of-freedom robotic arm is nearly 1 meter long and equipped with CCD camera, carbon-dioxide sensor, thermal sensor, and LED light.

Upon reaching the area above which the ceiling had collapsed, the robot directed one of its CCD cameras upward, using its zoom capabilities to get a good look of the damage.

There were still buildings standing that rescue workers needed to inspect.The roboticists offered their assistance, but the officials in charge told them that a private company owned the buildings and they'd have to get permission to use the robots.

5 Robots That May Rescue You From Natural Disasters

When a powerful earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant and raised radiation to alarming levels, authorities contemplated sending in robots first to inspect the facility, assess the damage and fix problems where possible.

robots are tested for their ability to open doors, turn valves, connect hoses, use hand tools to cut panels, drive vehicles, clear debris and climb a stair ladder —

year, 25 of the world’s top robotics organizations will compete on June 5 and 6 for a total of $3.5 million in prizes, as they attempt simulated disaster response at Fairplex in Pomona, California.

qualify for DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) finals, teams had to demonstrate that their robots can engage an emergency shut-off switch, get up from a prone position, walk for 10 meters without falling, pass over a barrier and rotate a circular valve 360 degrees. During

hopes the technologies emerging from the competition will transform the field of robotics and promote development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in hazardous, degraded conditions common in disaster zones. The

participants, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response. Those

is equipped with a sensor head consisting of a continuously rotating 3D laser scanner, which produces a spherical field-of-view, eight color cameras with an omnidirectional field-of-view, three full HD color cameras for a panoramic operator view, and a top-down, wide-angle camera.

central component of the system is an inverse kinematics (IK) engine that computes the necessary robot joint angles to achieve some real-world objectives such as positioning the robot’s hand at a given point in space, while maintaining balance of the robot and avoiding collisions with other objects. Team

team has also developed an estimation tool which combines information from the robot’s joint position sensors, its onboard accelerometer and gyroscopes, and its laser range-finder to determine the robot’s state and enable accurate, repeatable foot placement, and even allow the robot to accurately track its state without any contact with the ground. The

custom user interface integrates information from the robot’s state estimator, the laser scanner, and the robot’s onboard cameras and force sensors to give a human operator a detailed view of the world. Thormang

Japan Earthquake: More Robots to the Rescue

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing news coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency.

Japanese roboticists plan to use the KOHGA3 ground robot (shown here during a test) to inspect a collapsed building in Hachinohe, in the northeastern portion of Honshu island.

Japan is mobilizing more robots to assist with rescue and recovery operations after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the country last Friday.

A group led byProf.Eiji Koyanagi from Chiba Institute of Technologyreceived a request from a company in Kajima,in the Chiba Prefecture, eastern of Tokyo,for a robot that can inspect underwater infrastructure (the roboticists are not allowed to disclose the name of the company and the nature of the infrastructure).

Below is a video ofKOHGA3 during a recent exercise at Disaster City, a simulated collapsed town in College Station, Texas, and theworld's largest training facility for urban search and rescue.

The activities in Kajima and Hachinohe don't involve searching for survivors.They are recovery missions with the goal of ascertain damage and plan the next steps in terms of repairs and reconstruction.

Prof.Satoshi Tadokoro from Tohoku University and president of the International Rescue System Institutetells me he contacted the fire departments of Sendai and Kobe, as well as theMinistry of Trade and Industry's Tohoku Branch and various businesses, to inform that his team's robots are available for any kind of mission.

Tadokoro left Narita airport driving to his home in Sendai carrying on the trunk of his vehicle a tank-like ground robot called Quince and the Active Scope Camera, a remote-controlled snake-like robot.

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