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Engineering Better Security & Safety - 3

“At the World Trade Center, the rescuers would say, ‘Robots for search are nice, but can they help with shoring and extrication?’ With our grant from NSF-ENG, we were able to start researching the answer immediately.”

Robin Murphy, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Florida, and Director, Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue

Imagine the robots of the future . . .
intrepid search-and-rescue specialists that crawl into small, dangerous crevices that no human or animal can penetrate—to locate victims and deploy air bags to shore up collapsed buildings.

Robin Murphy and her team at the University of South Florida’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) are working to develop and deploy small, inexpensive search-and-rescue robots for
release in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, when conditions are too dangerous for human and canine rescuers to begin searching for victims.

In September 2001, Murphy’s shoebox-size, camera-carrying robots were used to find victim remains in the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings. With NSF-ENG support, Murphy’s group is now exploring the use of robots for so-called adaptive shoring, in which teams of small robots strategically place and inflate air bags within
a collapsed building and then work together to automatically adjust the shoring as rubble shifts or is removed.

Murphy believes that within a few short years, all 28 national Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams can be equipped with and trained to use sophisticated robotic rescuers. These robots would
provide their operators with important information for triage and help determine where digging and extrication efforts should be focused.

Field test of search-and-rescue robots.

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