Answering the Call: Fukishima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster
By: iRobot & Endeavor Robotics
Sending a human into the core of the Fukishima power plant, which was hit hard by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March, 2011 would be too dangerous; even fully outfitted in hazmat gear, a human would "soak up a year's worth of radiation after spending only five minutes in the area," according to Popular Mechanics. This robot, called the iRobot PackBot was originally designed for military use to get live video and sensor readings to operators using a series of mounted cameras.
The PackBot is capable of withstanding a drop from six feet onto solid concrete, making is suitable for handling a devastating nuclear disaster like Fukishima. More than 2,000 of these durable robots, which use a videogame-style controller that any operator can quickly and easily adapt to, are already stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq assisting various teams. iRobot sent several of these bots to join the team currently cleaning up the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. From deep in the heart of Fukushima, where humans cannot go for more than 1-2 minutes, iRobot's PackBot can measure radioactivity, sift through piles of debris and stream video back to its human operators at a command center a safe distance away.
Answering the Call: Saving Reefs from the Infamous Crown-of-Thorns Starfish
By: Queensland University of Technology
The starfish is no bigger than a dinner plate, but collectively it represents one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef, already destroying around 40 per cent of the reef from Cooktown to the Whitsundays. The COTSBot underwater robot looks like a sophisticated remote control toy submarine. But this autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has been designed to cruise around a designated area of coral reef, seeking out and destroying the predator crown-of-thorn starfish or COTS. Using GPS technology and powerful thrusters, the robot is designed to cruise about a meter above the coral surface using visual recognition technology to look for the pests. When it sees one, an injector arm will inject the invasive species with a toxin. If the robot reaches its potential, it could be a big weapon in the fight for the reef.
Queensland University of Technology researcher and developer of the robot, Dr Matt Dunbabin, said it was intended as a first responder system to beef up the existing program. "We've seen the great effort that the current eradication system is doing, but they just don't have enough people," he said. "We need a force multiplier that is actually going to make a difference on the reef, so they can scale it up and actually try and reduce the impact that this pest is having."
Answering the Call: Self-Contained Research Robot Running on Ocean Energy & Sunlight
By: Liquid Robotics
The ocean is full of power and information. The Wave Glider is designed to capture both. With the latest advancements in energy harvesting and propulsion, combined with a payload and sensor architecture, the Wave Glider is a persistent mobile data-gathering platform.
The Wave Glider revolutionizes how we explore and understand the world’s oceans by gathering data in ways or locations previously too costly or challenging to operate. Powered by wave and solar energy, the Wave Glider is an autonomous, unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that operates individually or in fleets delivering real-time data for up to a year with no fuel.
Answering the Call: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Few natural disasters in history can match the "Deepwater Horizon" BP oil spill of April 20, 2010. The resulting horrific destruction of the ecosystem throughout the Gulf might never have been fully realized without a robot named SeaGlider. This eco-robot was quickly deployed in the Gulf of Mexico as one of the first responders helping to monitor the oil spill, gather data on the water, and find out what is really going on beneath the surface. Thanks to the unmanned SeaGliders working together night and day to record the toxicity levels in the Gulf beneath the water's surface, scientists and environmentalists were better able to recognize the scope of the problem and respond to it.
The SeaGlider is a deep-diving Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) designed for missions lasting many months and covering thousands of miles, at a cost far less than a research vessel. SeaGlider measures temperature, salinity and other quantities in the ocean, sending back data using global satellite telemetry. SeaGlider "flies" through the water with extremely modest energy requirements using changes in buoyancy for thrust coupled with a stable low-drag hydrodynamic shape. Designed to operate at depths up to 1,000 meters the hull compresses as it sinks to match the pressure from the seawater. SeaGliders are in use worldwide, collecting oceanic physical properties and performing various other missions for oceanographers, the U.S. Navy, and research organizations.