Robots Scour WTC Wreckage

September 19, 2001 | Source: Wired News

Dozens of experimental search-and-rescue robots are scouring the wreckage of the World Trade Center’s collapsed twin towers. A team of four robot researchers from the University of South Florida are assisting the salvage operation with about seven robots, including various marsupial designs, which combine a large “mother” robot with a smaller “daughter” machine that is small enough to maneuver deep into crevices in the rubble. Some of the daughter machines are able to change their shape, morphing from flat pizza boxes into upright designs that can peer over obstacles.

National Institute for Search and Rescue, a nonprofit organization in Santa Barbara, California, is using robots based on Urbie, an extremely tough, semi-autonomous robot developed for military reconnaissance that provide video and other sensory feedback to the user. It can be fitted with video and infrared cameras, powerful lights, biological and chemical sensors and voice-activated microphones for communicating with people trapped in the rubble.