By Andy Choi
The researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories have built a robot that is capable of gathering valuable first-hand information whenever an accident occurs in mines, which will help the first responders in the rescue operations.
Sandia's Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot is equipped to handle any number of obstacles, including rubble piles and flooded rooms, to help rescuers reach trapped miners safely and efficiently
The robot called Gemini-Scout Rescue Robot is capable of traversing through 18 in. of water, navigate through boulders and rubble and travel faster than rescuers to explore dangerous environments.
Jon Salton, an engineer at Sandia, explained that the robot has been designed to move ahead of the rescuers and gather information about the environment prevailing in the mine so that rescue operations can be conducted at a faster pace. He added that the robot is equipped with gas sensors, a thermal camera to locate survivors and a pan-and-tilt camera to locate obstacles. The robot of less than 2 ft height and 4 ft in length is able to squeeze through tight corners and tide over safety hatches of 1 ft height. Additionally the robot can also supply food, medicines and air packs to the trapped miners. The robot is provided with two-way radios which can be configured to pull the survivors to safety.
The designers have taken care to house the electronic parts of the robot in casings that can withstand explosions and also prevent dangerous gases to get ignited due to sparks generated in the electronic parts. The researchers have made the controls and the equipment of the robot waterproof in order to function even in flooded tunnels. Clint Hobart, who took care of the mechanical design and system integration of the robot, said that they had used lightweight materials for building the robot for easy navigation. An Xbox 360 game controller has been used in the robot to enable easy learning. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has been providing financial aid for developing the robot. The robot is expected to be ready by the end of next year and the developers are targeting Mine Safety and Health Administration as their primary customer.