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Entries in disaster relief (2)

Friday
Aug262011

A New Way to Communicate During Disasters Without Cell Service, Internet or Landlines

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, millions of Americans face the possibility of losing cell, Internet and landline service. This loss of connectivity also impacts first responders, who often have difficulty organizing and communicating during their attempts to save lives and property. It's time for a better means of disaster communications.

LifeNet might be the answer. The innovative software lets people communicate wirelessly, even after a natural disaster has disabled cell service, the Internet and landline communications. Fast Company writes that LifeNet, developed by researchers at Georgia Tech University, is basically a piece of code that users can place on their laptop or phone.

"Once you have the software, the computers can communicate with each other, and you don't need infrastructure," Santosh Vempala, the Georgia Tech computer science professor in charge of the project, told Fast Company.

LifeNet enables any device to become a host and a router for the network. That lets users create a chain of communication, with the software routing information to and from each LifeNet device.  

For now, though, the software only works if users are fairly close to each other: up to 1 kilometer outdoors and only a couple hundred feet indoors. But as Vempala told Fast Company, "you could have a line of people on this network that are spaced 100 yards apart, and the line could go as long as you want."

The software is still in the testing phases, but the developers plan to bring it to market soon. And while it's not a perfect answer to the disaster communications question, it's an affordable step in the right direction. Too bad it won't be ready to help out the East Coast this weekend.

Friday
Apr012011

Japan Accepts Robots From U.S. Company to Aid in Relief Efforts

QinetiQ North America, a robotic technology provider, announced that the government of Japan has accepted its offer to provide unmanned vehicle equipment and associated training to aid in Japan’s natural disaster recovery efforts. QinetiQ North America’s technology and services will allow Japan’s response teams to accomplish critical and complex recovery tasks at a safer distance from hazardous debris and other dangerous conditions.

Some of the bots will be controlled using Xbox 360 pads. They will be put to work at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant to assist in relief efforts.

The other equipment being staged in Japan for rapid, on-call deployment includes QinetiQ North America’s Robotic Appliqué Kits, which turn Bobcat loaders into unmanned vehicles in just 15 minutes. The kits permit remote operation of all 70 Bobcat vehicle attachments, such as shovels, buckets, grapples, tree cutters and tools to break through walls and doors. 

The unmanned Bobcat loaders include seven cameras, night vision, thermal imagers, microphones, two-way radio systems and radiation sensors, and can be operated from more than a mile away to safely remove rubble and debris, dig up buried objects and carry smaller equipment.

QinetiQ North America is also staging TALON and Dragon Runner robots in Japan in the event they are needed. TALON robots have previously withstood rigorous deployment and twice daily decontamination at Ground Zero. The TALON robots are equipped with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive detection kits that can identify more than 7,500 environmental hazards, including toxic industrial chemicals, volatile gases, radiation and explosive risks, as well as temperature and air quality indicators. The TALON robots provide night vision and sound and sensing capabilities from up to 1,000 meters away.

QinetiQ North America’s lightweight Dragon Runner robots, designed for use in small spaces, will be available for investigating rubble piles, trenches, culverts and tunnels. Thermal cameras and sound sensors on the Dragon Runners can provide data from up to 800 meters away, permitting the robot’s “eyes and ears” to serve in spaces too small or dangerous for human access.

In addition to the unmanned equipment, a team of QinetiQ North America technical experts will provide training and support to Japan’s disaster response personnel.