Robots hit rubble to help earthquake recovery in Japan

Global Hawk provides observation; crawlers look through rubble

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Six teams of researchers from Japanese universities who brought their rescue robots for tests at CRASR, at Texas A&M University, flew back to Japan after the earthquake to help with the recovery.

There will be situations to which the robots are well suited, however, and CRASR will send over its own robots and teams of operators to supplement those of the Japanese if needed, she said.

The U.S. Air Force is flying an unmanned Global Hawks over the Japanese disaster areas to help search for survivors, a mission the remote-controlled plan also filled after the earthquake in Haiti early in 2010. The U.S. military also used a Seabotix remote-controlled underwater vehicle to check for damage to Haitian bridges and seawalls during that recovery.

Robots have been used following other quakes as well.

In addition to cameras that capture visible light, the Global Hawk carries infrared cameras that could find heat signatures of trapped victims, and radar cameras that could find victims, weak spots in rubble and other hazards. The drone can fly as long as 35 hours without landing to refuel, according to manufacturer Northrup Grumman.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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