Here in the U.S. just before and after Hurricane Katrina, much work was done to develop robots to sell to public safety agencies as tools for disaster relief. Little aerobatic helicopters could fly inside a wrecked building looking for survivors. Others could perch on top of a destroyed building and act as a communications repeater.
Others would be built like a snake and could slide through rubble looking for survivors or listening for sounds of life – or just looking for bodies.
Still others would be industrial robots that could perform work in hazardous environments.
Japan, which has the most advanced robotics in the world, has not been seen using a lot of robotics in the quake/tsunami/nuclear disasters. Could it be that robots do not work well when electricity is not readily available? Or that tele-operated robots remain too complex yet for disaster applications requiring expert staff that are now in short supply?
This is an interesting question for the robotics community. (I have worked on robotics as a hobby but not professionally.)
Below are links to related stories – it seems that search robots are just now being deployed.
- Where Have All the Robots Gone? (mt-soft.com.ar)
- Where Have All the Robots Gone? (makezine.com)
- Techs send cute robot into the crippled Fukushima plant (dvice.com)
- Robots to the rescue in Japan? (cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Japan Earthquake: More Robots to the Rescue (spectrum.ieee.org)
- Japan Earthquake: Robots Help Search For Survivors (spectrum.ieee.org)
- Robots en route to Japan (cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com)