- the smart shirt
- PREDICTING EARTHQUAKES FROM SPACE
- THE SAFER BARRIER
- MICROSCOPIC WIRES DETECT CANCERS
- DETECTING "DIRTY BOMBS"
- MINI-ROBOT RECONNAISSANCE TEAM
- CLEANER WATER THROUGH NEW TREATMENT TECHNOLOGY
- A BETTER HEARING AID MODELED ON A FLY'S EAR
- CHEAP, CLEAN, RENEWABLE NON-POLLUTING FUEL FROM PLANT WASTES AND UNIVERSITY SCIENCE
- FUELING THE CLEAN CAR
- RESTORING SIGHT IN BLIND PATIENTS
- SPY PLANES THAT FLY ON WINGS OF SEAGULLS
- SOLAR ENERGY FROM THE WINDY CITY
- TINY PARTICLES DELIVER CURES
- THE HANDYLAB--INSTANT DNA TESTING
MINI-ROBOT RECONNAISSANCE TEAM
Not long from now, when terrorists or criminals take hostages, rescuers may respond with a new secret weapon: tiny robots that can scout out the scene before a rescue attempt is made. The robots will be sent through windows or onto roofs, from which vantage points they will radio the positions of hostages and captors or other useful radio information.
Is this science fiction? Actually, it’s federally funded science research. With a $4.9 million contract from the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering has set up a new Center for Distributed Robotics, where faculty researchers, including Associate Professor Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos and associate Professor Richard Voyles, are designing a system of small and medium-sized robots.
Here’s how it will work. Using a tank, helicopter, or other large transport vehicle—the “shuttle”- rescuers will set up computers about a mile from the scene of the crisis. Next, a crew of medium sized robots, called the MegaScouts, will carry the smaller robots to within 300 feet of the building. From there, the robot “scouts,” each about two inches long and less than a half a pound in weight, will hop or roll to the building.
The scouts will be equipped with sensors to detect heat, motion, chemicals or biological agents. Using radio transmitters and guided by pre-programmed computers, they’ll report data to help the rescuers find hostages, captors, and weapons.
For the armed forces, police departments, and rescue teams, the MegaScouts and scouts will be invaluable partners in hostage-takings and other emergencies. For the American public, the scouts are just one more example of how federally funded university research makes all of us safer.