The High Tech Society

Future Tech: DARPA’s Rescue Mission Robots


Future Tech: Rescue Mission Robots

Over the last decade, a series of superstorms has caused the world to rethink rescue missions. Human beings, while full of compassion, can only go so long without breaks, can not go into places that are without air or full of radioactive particles without causing much harm to themselves. Human being aren’t ones to shrink from impossible tasks, just think about the first moon landing or all the thousands of volunteers for the one way trip to Mars. It has become increasingly clear that an extra hand is needed, though. Someone or something to go where human beings can not. In answer to this problem comes the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, is running a competition amongst inventors to create a robot that can do what humans may not be able to accomplish for whatever reason at the time.

resuce robot

Disaster Relief Issues

Hurricane Katrina, the Tōhoku earthquake that led to the Fukushima reactor troubles, the typhoon that hit the Philippines that killed more than 3,500 people and other storms activated disaster relief responses from dozens of agencies. In places that were flooded, people were swept away before workers could get to them. The reactors in Japan were faced with leaking radiation and needed people to go in to fix them, despite the dangerous levels of radiation. Brave souls volunteered to help in those situations, but DARPA wonders, what if robots could help instead? A robot that could adapt to any situation and use the items around them to perform rescues where humans can not survive would be a huge help to disaster relief organizations. The DARPA challenge was formed in response to this need.

bear robot rescue

Robots Helping Humans

The idea of robots and humans working together is not a new one. It’s been in science fiction movies and books for decades. It is just becoming possible through the latest advances in technology. Everyone has a machine working in their home. Roomba, ATM’s and even toys such as Furby are examples of robots in everyday life. Robots are machines that can perform a task when given a command. An easy definition that can be applied to thousands of objects. Robots are used in medical procedures, in transportation and for military purposes. DARPA proposes to take robots into a new direction, helping people in need.

DCR Challenge

drc challenge

In 2013, after countless lives being lost by the extreme disasters, DARPA decided to issues a challenge to inventors everywhere; to build a robot that can work in any type of environment, that can adapt to its surroundings, and to use the same tools that typical rescue teams use. An asset to teams in dire situations, a robot could be the answer to situations where a human can not go. The response to the challenge was overwhelming. Many teams wanted a chance to prove that they could create the perfect robot that could be used in emergency situations. Over 50 teams from NASA, Virginia Tech, MIT and other top companies submitted their proposals. Now there is a month left before the robots begin to be tested by DARPA. 13 teams have been chosen to submit their robots and each team is nervously awaiting to find out if they are the winners.

The robots must be able to drive cars, lift at least 200 pounds and be able to function without a human standing next to it. Who will win the rescue mission robot competition? There are only 31 days left before the robots must be handed over to be tested by DARPA for the next round. More teams will be eliminated with the final winners being announced next December. The winning team will receive 2 million dollars.

drc robot driving

Rescue missions can be dangerous for humans. It doesn’t stop people from volunteering to help discover and recover victims, but some situations make it hard for a human to continue on with their brave missions. Robots can be the answer to this issue that people have been struggling with for a long time. If successful, DARPA and the amazing teams assembled to make a rescue robot will change how disaster victims are found and returned to safety. This competition is a brilliant plan to bring together the brightest scientists to resolve a problem that has plagued humans for far too long. The teams should be congratulated on their vision for the future. This competition that DARPA is hosting may very well change the way robotics are viewed and used in the future. Millions of lives could be saved if even one of the robots that have been designed is added to rescue teams all around the world.