Unmanned drones could serve in emergency response situations
Robotic planes can speed to crisis and react, without threat to human life
Unmanned drones, robotic planes that fly high in the air are widely despised. Drones have been linked to the deaths of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan, and many are alarmed that they could be used as surveillance against Americans. However - drones may also be used in certain emergency situations, minimizing the threat to human life faced by many first responders.
Robotic insects like the RoboBee from the Wyss Institute at Harvard or cyborg beetles that carry sensors on their backs could be future foot soldiers in a networked system, crawling into a burning building to find the hottest zones, or using motion sensors to locate a missing person.
"Just knowing what's going on inside a house that we would go into cold - [we could] potentially save officers' lives and victims' lives," Detective Phil Mancini says. Mancini has since been advising a group building a swarm of cheap, small flying helicopters that could come to the aid of officers across the country who find themselves facing off against suspects they can't see.
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Pei Zhang, associate professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon says that ten rotors would move and think one, as if a single robot was "chopped into pieces with a knife," said. Zhang's lab is developing a system that will allow tens of robots to explore different parts of a new environment and make sense of the information they each collect.
"I can see the thing deployed almost on every call, every type of EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) or SWAT call," Pat Zeri, the bomb squad commander at Roseville in charge of the robots says. Ground robots used in bomb situations are useful, but Zeri says that they're slow to get moving, and if the robot has a problem, "there's a 900 pound block of metal for the SWAT team to negotiate around."
Robotic insects like the RoboBee from the Wyss Institute at Harvard or cyborg beetles that carry sensors on their backs could be future foot soldiers in a networked system, crawling into a burning building to find the hottest zones, or using motion sensors to locate a missing person, Zhang says.
Small drones have helped first responders previously. The Royal Canadian Mountain Police last May used a quadcopter carrying an infrared camera to find an injured person after his car flipped over in the snow in Saskatchewan.
Drones are especially helpful in moments of natural disasters. In Grand Forks County, North Dakota, the sheriff's office used drones last season to check on flooded farms.
Advocates say that drones can cut costs and help emergency responders be more efficient. Benjamin Miller, the director of Mesa County's unmanned aircraft program, has testified before Senate committees on the responsible use of robotic technology for law enforcement.
With a swarm of bots on hand, "I can't think of a reason why remote sensors in hazardous situations would not be useful," he says.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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