Micire-JFR-Katrina - Evolution and Field Performance of a...

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Evolution and Field Performance of a Rescue Robot Mark J. Micire * Department of Computer Science University of Massachusetts, Lowell Lowell, MA 01854 [email protected] Abstract Robots are slowly finding their way into the hands of search and rescue groups. One of the robots contributing to this effort is the Inuktun VGTV-Xtreme se- ries by American Standard Robotics. This capable robot is one of the only robots engineered specifically for the search and rescue domain. This paper describes the adaptation of the VGTV platform from an industrial inspection robot into a capable and versatile search and rescue robot. These adaptations were based on growing requirements established by rescue groups, academic re- search, and extensive field trials. A narrative description of a successful search of a damaged building during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is included to support these claims. Finally, lessons learned from these deployments and guidelines for future robot development is discussed. 1 Introduction Hurricane Katrina was the first Category 5 hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. The hurricane’s eye made landfall at 6:10 AM CDT on Monday, August 29. The 145 mph sus- tained winds and the strong northeastern quadrant of the storm pushed record storm surges onshore smashing the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. Florida Task Force Three (FLTF3) an- swered a request for aid from Biloxi, Mississippi. This sixty-three member team, pre-staged in the west Florida panhandle, responded with an arsenal of personnel and equipment from the Tampa Bay area. Included in the cache of equipment was a newly developed variable geometry tracked vehicle (VGTV) manufactured by Inuktun Services Ltd. and American Standard Robotics. This robot platform and its predecessors have been an available resource for FLTF3 for more than five years. Through training exercises and continual feedback from search and rescue specialists, the platform has become a valuable tool for the search team. * Mark Micire is a technical search specialist for Florida Task Force Three and a nationally certified fire fighter. He is the President and CEO of American Standard Robotics, and directly involved in the design of the VGTV-Xtreme robot described in this article. He is also the operator described throughout this article. For further information on this deployment, including full-length video and commentary, please visit http://www.cs.uml.edu/ mmicire
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The iterative re-design of the VGTV robot has not been a quick, easy, or straight path. The original VGTV began as a small robot for industrial inspection. More than five years of academic and commercial development was invested in this platform due to its adaptive polymorphic chassis. The chassis (described in more detail in Section 3) was unique since it allowed the robot to adjust itself to the environment. This was ideal for unstructured environments, but other factors limited its usability in search and rescue. Through careful
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