Throwable rescue robots dispatched to assist in the collapsed building. As of this writing, 37 people have been rescued from a Florida condo building that collapsed on the morning of June 24. However, the whereabouts of more than 140 people are still unknown, and rescue robots have now been dispatched to help find them.

Challenge: Search and rescue efforts are often a race against time. In a situation like a collapsed building, the chances of finding survivors decrease with each passing hour. However, a collapsed building is an incredibly dangerous place even for first responders, so they must be very deliberate when navigating it – one wrong move and debris can move in a way that is dangerous to their own safety or that of others compromise what they are trying to defend.

Throwable rescue robots

On the morning of July 1, another part of the building in Florida began to show signs that it could collapse, so first responders were removed from the site for most of the day. When the search was resumed, its range was limited.

Rescue robots – Robots can be a powerful tool in search and rescue operations, using cameras and other sensors to search for signs of survivors without putting human first responders at risk. Smaller rescue robots can also fit into tight spaces that humans can’t, or won’t, navigate.


“In the event of a collapse like this, the stack is structurally defective and vulnerable to frequent changes,” Tom Frost, vice president of unmanned ground systems at robotics company Teledyne Flier, told the Washington Post. “It is safer for a robot to go deeper into the void than for a person to go into that void.”

Offer of Help: Teledyne Flir has sent at least two of its rescue robots to the Miami-Dade Fire Department (MDFR) to help with the Florida disaster, according to the Post. There is a seven-pound tank-like robot called Firstlook. It is equipped with cameras and microphones and can withstand drops of up to 16 feet to concrete.

“You can take this robot and throw it through a window or throw it on the ceiling, and go into really hard-to-reach places,” Frost said. The other is a suitcase-shaped robot called the Packbot. It assisted in rescue efforts after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and is designed to move objects and carry loads up to 40 pounds.

Next Steps: It is unclear if MDFR has deployed rescue robots yet or plans to do so in the future. However, first responders already use drones, sonar, and other technologies, and with safety concerns about what human rescuers can do right now, ground-based robots could be a valuable addition to rescue efforts. We would love to hear from you! If you have any comments on this article or if you have any suggestions for a future free-thinking story, please email us at

Throwable ground vehicles dispatched to assist rescuers in Florida condo collapse. Teledyne Flir, a company that makes small mobile robots with thermal imaging cameras, sent two of them to the Miami-Dade Fire Department overnight in hopes that they would survive a devastating Surfside condo collapse. Search and rescue efforts can help, Florida.

Rescuers have been on the site for seven days and are rummaging through the rubble of Champlain Towers South, which suffered a massive structural collapse on June 23. As of Wednesday afternoon, CNN reported that the known death toll was 16, with an additional 147 people. unaccounted for.

Throwable ground vehicles dispatched

According to the Washington Post, Teledyne Flir dispatched a five-pound brick-shaped “first look” robot with tiny crawler wheels and arms to climb obstacles. It is designed to be dropped onto hard surfaces from a height of 4.88 meters and can pass through small crevices that humans cannot fit. It is accompanied by a large “Packbot”, which is about the size of a suitcase and can carry about 18 kilograms. Use a manipulator arm to move heavy objects.

“The idea behind our system is to send robots first,” Tom Frost, vice president of unmanned ground solutions for Teledyne Flyer, told the Miami Herald. “They are the perfect tool to send in unsafe situations.” Frost added to the Boston Globe, “In a collapse like [surfside], there will be very small sounds that are dangerous or impossible.” “Our little 2kg robot could possibly get into those voids and crawl.”

While the Miami-Dade Fire Department has used aerial drones, sonar and sensitive microphones while combing survivors and bodies, it is unclear whether they actually used ground robots, Post said. The company’s promotional videos on YouTube place a strong emphasis on military and police applications, such as situational awareness in hostage situations, searches for fortified positions occupied by criminal suspects or enemy forces, and the disposal of dangerous material such as bombs.

Teledyne Flir acquired these robot lines when it purchased Endeavor Robotics, formerly the defense and security division of iRobot, earlier this year. According to the Herald, the Massachusetts State Police deployed a robot built by iRobot in 2013 during a confrontation with the Boston Marathon bombers. (One of the most infamous uses of similar robots by police was when Dallas police killed a mass shooter who killed multiple police officers by detonating a bomb attached to a robot with a manipulator arm, although that model was manufactured by Northrop Grumman).

Texas A&M professor of engineering and computer science Robin R. Murphy told The Conversation that such robots could be useful in disasters: Respondents used similar robots after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and to monitor the interior of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Power plants after a depression, but they have their limits, especially when trying to navigate through “versions of concrete furniture, plaster, pipes and collection sticks.”

He said that unmanned ground vehicles can penetrate structures more deeply than other robots, with snake-shaped cameras that can pierce holes. “Search chambers typically have a maximum of 5.49 meters, while ground robots are capable of over 18.29 meters of debris,” Murphy told The Conversation. “They are also used to enter unsafe spaces that a defender could fit into, but that would be unsafe and therefore require teams to work for hours before someone can safely enter.”

Mobility remains extremely difficult for these robots, Murphy said, due to a number of challenges. This includes when the “empty space” (air pocket in the debris) is too small for a robot to move, which means that it cannot return to a previous point without driving backwards, and when it is in debris.

Throwable ground vehicles dispatched

The road has many twists or turns. Rescuers have to operate robots on a potentially wide range of surfaces, from concrete slabs and carpets to pulverized structural materials, and vehicles can be exposed to dust, sand, sewage, water, mud, and other hazards. However, the information returned can be valuable.

“The big problem is looking into the rubble,” Murphy told The Conversation. “You basically have a concrete, plaster, pipe, and furniture version of the trucks. If you can get a robot out of the rubble, the structural engineers can look inside that pile of trucks and say ‘Well we’re not going to go over that. , it will cause a secondary collapse. Well, let’s start from this side, we will cross the wreckage quickly and safely. “

Murphy said that to the best of his knowledge, rescue teams have failed to rescue anyone with this type of ground robot. Respondents have been interrupted at times, such as a 2010 incident in New Zealand when a robot got wet and short-circuited while searching for 29 miners trapped in a collapsed tunnel.

Officials have yet to release detailed findings on the cause of the collapse. But the Miami Herald reported that videos uploaded to TikTok showed massive amounts of debris and water flooding the north side of the building’s basement parking lot minutes before the disaster.

During a 2018 inspection, engineer Frank Morabito had identified a “major error” in which the lack of waterproofing and drainage in the pool deck above the garage caused “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below, in some cases “Exposed, deteriorated rod” While Morabito did not mention the risk of the building collapsing in the report, he said it would be “extremely expensive” to fix the problem.

The building was constructed in 1979, and his condo association recently approved a $ 15 ($ 19) million dollar appraisal for extensive renovations as part of a 40-year recertification plan at the time of the disaster. According to CNN, survivors have begun to raise serious doubts about the difference between the bleak 2018 report and the start of repairs, while Local 10 reported that a former treasurer called the association worthless of five presidents.

Cycling for many years. Condominium Association President Gene Wodnicky wrote in a letter to homeowners in April that the building was severely damaged due to negligent maintenance that could have been performed years earlier and that “observable damage to the garage from the initial inspection “. It’s gotten pretty bad. “

“It is impossible to know the extent of damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete breaks open,” Vodniki said. “Sometimes the damage is more extensive, which can be determined by inspecting the surface … When you can visually see the chipping (cracking) of the concrete, it means that the surface of the rebar that holds it together underneath it is rusting and deteriorating. Concrete degradation is accelerating “


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