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Surprising Science

Coming Soon: (Mostly) Non-Human Emergency Response Teams

A consortium of universities and companies are working on ways to get a team consisting of robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and dogs to communicate with each other in a disaster scenario.

What’s the Latest Development?

Several universities and companies — among them North Carolina State University, MIT, National Instruments, and Boeing — are collaborating on a project that could take emergency services to the next level. Titled the Smart Emergency Response System (SERS), it will bring a rescue team consisting of “ground and aerial autonomous vehicles, drones, humanoids, human-operated telerobots, and trained search-and-rescue dogs” to save people in case of disaster. The goal is to develop methods of communication between them and a command center via wi-fi, Bluetooth, cellular networks, and other means.

What’s the Big Idea?

Like any ideal team, each of the SERS member groups has specific strengths that can complement any weaknesses found in the others. For example, as writer Evan Ackerman notes, dogs “can’t move rubble, and they’re not that great at flying, either.” However, they have lots of other amazing abilities, and on this team, they will wear special sensor-filled “cybernetic suits” that allow them to receive voice and gesture commands remotely. The suits also monitor and return the dogs’ heart rate data.

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Read it at IEEE Spectrum


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