Robots Will Play a Valuable Role in Search and Rescue Missions in the Future
Robotics is advancing at a rapid pace, and robotic solutions that have primarily been used in the automotive industry are now being applied across sectors. Despite concerns that this cutting-edge technology could replace the human workforce in the future, the growth of the robotics market is evident. According to the analytics company GlobalData, the global robotics market is expected to surpass $275 billion by 2025, compared to $98 billion in 2018. Today, robots can serve a variety of functions. They can perform repetitive and dull tasks, as well as take care of highly dangerous work. In fact, increased use of robots is particularly evident in search and rescue operations. After natural disasters like earthquakes or floods happen, rescue teams can spend days just reaching the site to save victims. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robots can access disaster sites much quicker than humans, and they can even reach places that human teams can't.
A unique solution that could make rescue operations more efficient was developed by researchers from Purdue University. Their hummingbird-inspired robot consists of a 3D-printed body equipped with wings made from carbon fiber, with a wingspan of 17 centimeters. The robot can lift twice its own weight, and thanks to its small size, it can fit into tight spaces. As New Atlas reports, Purdue's innovation will fly silently and use AI algorithms to navigate in the dark, which is perfect for rescue missions. Rescue teams, for instance, could send the robot to a collapsed building to look for victims.
Another robot that can move through tight spaces and navigate obstacles comes from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel. Named Rising Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot (RSTAR), this innovative solution was introduced at the 2018 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) held in Brisbane, Australia. RSTAR relies on adjustable wheeled legs to move through rough terrains and surfaces like mud or sand without getting stuck. Moreover, RSTAR is able to climb vertically and crawl horizontally, which makes it ideal for a wide range of applications in search and rescue missions. Dr. David Zarrouk, from BGU's Department of Mechanical Engineering, thinks that the robot is perfect for operations conducted in collapsed buildings or flooded areas, because it can easily adapt and overcome obstacles to reach its target and find the victims. Plus, RSTAR is quite fast and has a low energy consumption, which makes the robot's work time and range more efficient, explains Zarrouk.
Just like the Israeli researchers, Hyundai's Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences (CRADLE) division also wanted to create a solution that moves competently in rough terrain. What they've developed is the world's first Ultimate Mobility Vehicle, called Elevate. It's essentially a car equipped with a set of robotic legs, allowing it to climb stairs and step over gaps. The vehicle can be driven by humans to disaster locations, and once the terrain becomes more complex, it would rely on its legs to walk like a mammal or reptile. After it leaves the disaster zone, the robotic legs would retract under the car's cabin, and Elevate would transform back into a regular electric vehicle. Besides search and rescue missions, Elevate can be used for other applications, too. For example, the vehicle could be used as a taxi service for people with disabilities. People who don't have a ramp outside their home could simply hail an Elevate vehicle, and the robotic car would "walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in".
Of all the emerging tech trends, robotics will probably have the biggest impact on the way search and rescue missions are conducted in the future. Since innovative robotic tools bring more efficiency to disaster relief operations, rescue teams should use them to help disaster victims and save more lives.
Author: Richard van Hooijdonk
International keynote speaker, trendwatcher and futurist Richard van Hooijdonk offers inspiring lectures on how technology impacts the way we live, work and do business. Over 420,000 people have already attended his renowned inspiration sessions, in the Netherlands as well as abroad. He works together with RTL television and presents the weekly radio program 'Mindshift' on BNR news radio. Van Hooijdonk is also a guest lecturer at Nyenrode and Erasmus Universities.