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Robots coming to the aid of humans caught up in disaster zones

The FP7-funded ICARUS project is developing unmanned search and rescue devices to get people trapped in life and death situations to safety more quickly.

Following the high death tolls arising from the Haitian and Japanese earthquakes, the European Commission has committed itself to funding projects to bring more robotic search and rescue (SAR) technology from the lab to the field. One such project is ICARUS, which aims to help bridge the gap between the discoveries being made within the research community and practical, on-the-ground application by developing a tool-box of integrated components for unmanned devices. Such devices, used alongside human intervention, can be vital tools in detecting, locating and rescuing people caught up in natural disasters such as earthquakes or incidents such as collapsed buildings or mines and transport or industrial accidents. Rescuing people in such conditions can be very risky for the emergency crew members first on the scene, unmanned devices can both act to prevent further accidents while working efficiently in challenging conditions. In September 2014 ICARUS tested unmanned aerial and ground vehicles and sensors in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium. The project successfully ran field trials on devices such as the Skybotix Hexacopter, designed to search for victims indoors, and the Multicopter which can search outside, both using 3D reconstruction to locate victims. To control the vehicles, the project also tested a Command, Control and Intelligence platform and a communications system connecting all the various platforms. The consortium feels the tests demonstrated that although a lot remains to be done, the components are not only functioning well, but are robust enough to be deployed in the field. ICARUS devices have already been used in aftermath of the most severe natural disaster Bosnia-Herzegovina has faced in the last century. An unmanned aerial vehicle, the Microdrone MD4-1000 quadrotor, was used to assess the damage caused by the 2014 floods and to detect the possible location of landmines displaced by resulting landslides. To ensure they are meeting the needs of the emergency services and other users of their technology, ICARUS is announcing an early adopter programme. The project is selling the new Visual Inertial sensor, which can be used in unmanned vehicles and robotics, for EUR 3 900. The price is discounted to encourage research teams around the world to use it and pass their feedback to the project, so allowing it to take the sensor from something that is market-ready to a product that is user-friendly. The ICARUS project, coordinated in Belgium, involves nine countries and 24 partners from the research, business and non-profit communities. It runs from February 2012 to the end of January 2016 and has a total budget of just over EUR 17 million, of which EUR 12.6 million comes from the EU. For more information, please visit: http://www.fp7-icarus.eu/

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