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Engineering Better Security & Safety - 2


Imagine a future . . .
in which advanced digital technologies and high-mobility platforms provide a virtual reconnaissance team with unprecedented real-time information for directing recovery efforts following earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural and man-made disasters.


Supported by NSF-ENG, Georgia Tech’s David Frost has created PQuake, a Palm Pilot–based system for collecting infrastructure and subsurface information following earthquakes. The system uses a digital camera, handheld global positioning system (GPS) receiver, digital voice recorder, and custom software written for the Palm Pilot to directly input damage information to an electronic database.

Field-tested during a post-earthquake mission to Gujarat, India, PQuake was also used to gather information on structural and nonstructural damage to buildings in the vicinity of the World Trade Center in September 2001.

With advancing technology, Frost envisions future applications using several high-mobility vehicles such as Humvees to access the affected disaster zone. Each vehicle would collect data from teams of PQuake-equipped field workers and transmit the data back to a home base/telecommunications studio, where a virtual reconnaissance team would make decisions based on real-time data and simulations of structural response.

The system might also incorporate data from other technologies now in development with support from NSF-ENG, including aerial laser mapping (which provides a 3-D representation of the ground surface and structures on top of it, complementing the flat 2-D maps now used with PQuake) and rescue robots (deployed to strategically place and inflate air bags to shore up collapsed areas of buildings).


“I have always appreciated NSF’s peer-reviewed funding approach and the flexibility and challenge it offers to explore the broader impacts of my research.”

David Frost, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech engineering students use the PQuake system to assess damage to buildings
surrounding the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.


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