Roco Rescue



Rescue Robot from DOE Lab

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Chilean and Pike River mine disasters in 2010 revealed the dangers and difficulties faced in extracting those trapped beneath the earth. The earthquakes and hurricanes on the east coast of the US this month are an indication that extrication training and resources have never been needed more. Structural collapse, trench rescue and extrication from confined spaces (including mine incidents) have a common element. Many have unknown dangers: poisonous gases, flooded tunnels, explosive vapors, unstable structures… all obstacles that can significantly slow rescue operations.

Roco offers core classes in Extrication, like Trench and Structural Collapse. All Roco courses offer hands-on training from human instructors. When we  found this article about recent technological developments in robotics, we were compelled to share.

Sandia National Laboratories robotics researchers showed off their Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot at the Unmanned Systems North America 2011 conference in Washington, D.C., in mid-August. According to Sandia’s news release, the Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot has been designed to negotiate hazardous conditions encountered after an underground mine disaster, and report findings so that rescuers can be more prepared. NIOSH funded the robot’s development for the past three years, and MSHA is likely to be the primary customer, they said.

“We have designed this robot to go in ahead of its handlers, to assess the situation and potential hazards and allow operations to move more quickly,” said Jon Salton, Sandia engineer and project manager. “The robot is guided by remote control and is equipped with gas sensors, a thermal camera to locate survivors, and another pan-and-tilt camera mounted several feet up to see the obstacles we’re facing.”

Less than 4 feet long and 2 feet tall, Gemini-Scout can navigate around tight corners and over safety hatches a foot high. It can carry food, air packs, and medicine to trapped workers and is equipped with two-way radios. It can be configured to drag survivors to safety.

The use of technology in rescue is becoming more and more common. As all good rescue pros know, you can never be too prepared. If the use of robotics can detect hazards in a timely manner, before loss of life, we’re all for it. Research, development and the test of time will tell the story. Great inspiration!

Image: Randy Montoya

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