Role of robots in maritime search and rescue explored

Role of robots in maritime search and rescue explored ICARUS

OCTOBER 26, 2014—Robots and autonomous underwater vehicles are playing an increasing role in commercial maritime and offshore oil and gas operations for such things as oil and gas exploration, subsea work, repairs and maintenance, and hull inspections. The future will usher in an expanded role for robots and unmanned vehicles. DNV GL, for example, recently unveiled a concept vessel for short sea shipping called the ReVolt that is fully battery powered and unmanned.

The NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), part of the NATO Science and Technology Organization, recently held sea trials that successfully tested and demonstrated the integration of robotic platforms, including Unmanned Surface Vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Systems for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. The sea trials, from October 13 to 24, were held as part of ICARUS (Integrated Components for Assisted Rescue and Unmanned Search operations) project, which is funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP7).

Since 2012, ICARUS has been developing advanced robotic platforms that can support crisis intervention teams in detecting, locating and rescuing humans in danger, in maritime and land disaster scenarios.

Unmanned Search and Rescue (SAR) devices offer a valuable tool for saving lives and for speeding SAR operations.

This is crucial for maritime incidents where survival times are short and SAR teams can be exposed to considerable risks.

For such events, Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), capable of transporting SAR equipment and deploying first aid devices, can greatly improve the efficiency of operations.

Existing technologies have been improved to strengthen resilience, and new developments include robotic vehicles that can deploy autonomous life saving capsules, using mission planning software, new sensors and new data acquisition capabilities to detect and track survivors.

Experts in maritime robotics and target recognition, CMRE is collaborating with the Laboratory of Microgrids and Electric Vehicles, Portugal, in the framework of ICARUS to enhance the autonomy of robotic surface vehicles and is also involved in the integration of the main USV into the ICARUS Command, Control and Interface (C2I) station collaborative operations with aerial robots.

The ICARUS project is managed by a consortium of 24 public and private partners from 10 countries.

One of the central objectives of the project is to bridge the gap between robotic laboratories and the application of novel robotic devices to real-life situations in the field, paving the way for cutting-edge technologies to be used in Search and Rescue operations.

In 2015, the technologies developed during the ICARUS project will be tested in two scenarios, one a simulated earthquake exercise in Belgium and the other a maritime accident in Portugal.

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