rescue robot obstacle course

Responders, Developers Put Rescue Robots to the Test

About 35 robots performed at a Texas facility recently to help developers work on a standard suite of performance tests to help evaluate mechanical rescuers. The tests were sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate to develop performance standards for urban search and rescue robots.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology oversaw a rescue robot exercise recently at a Texas Engineering Extension Service facility, giving developers a chance to work on performance standards for urban search and rescue robots. The robots were tested by developers and first responders in the exercise, which was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

"It is challenging to develop the test standards as the robots are still evolving," Elena Messina, acting chief of the Intelligent Systems Division, said in NIST's news release, "because standards are usually set for products already in use. But it is critical for developers to be able to compare results, which is not possible without reproducible test environments. So, we have reproducible rough terrain that everyone can build in their labs, whereas you can't reproduce a rubble pile. This way, developers in Japan can run tests, and people in Chicago can understand what the robot achieved."

The exercise included testing battery capacity; mobility tests in which robots climbed steps, ramps, and steps with unequal gaps; and a mapping challenge to study the accuracy of a map generated by a robot's sensors. Eventually, this will lead to a standard to be submitted to ASTM International as a potential rescue robot test standard. To see the robots in action, visit the Disaster City TEEX Web site, www.teexblog.blogspot.com/.

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