USF-bred bots could save lives

Imagine being trapped under piles of debris, unable to call for help and hidden from rescuers above.

Hope is fleeting.

But then something in the distance picking through the rubble.A robot.

New technological advances have shown that robots can help rescuers determine the state of victims and can care for them when in need of medical attention. At USF, The Center for Robot-Assisted Search And Rescue (CRASAR) has conducted many field trials to determine the capabilities of such robots.

CRASAR has verified that inexpensive, non-invasive medical sensors can be used to determine whether a victim is dead or alive.

“Before now, a trained rescuer had to watch the view from the robot and try to guess whether a person was dead or alive,” said Robin Murphy, Director for CRASAR. “Within 18 months, we could have a whole suit of sensors under $500 that could make a quick, accurate determination.”

Six medical sensors were tested and field tests showed three to be successful. The three successful sensors were effective in measuring exhaled carbon dioxide, the measurement of oxygen content in circulating blood, and the detection of variation in heat during breathing.

These field trials also found the robots were able to care for victims by bringing them air, water or medications through a flexible tube.

“We really want to save time so that if rescuers can’t reach a victim, then the robot can supply the victim with the bare essentials to survive upon being rescued,” said graduate research student Jennifer Casper.

Graduate research student Mark Micire added that the new robots can get readings from a potential victim with a simple stethoscope.

“These robots can just walk right up to a victim and apply the stethoscope, which is connected by a spring, and relay the victims information to the rescue team,” Micire said.

Researchers are now moving forward to package these medical sensors and conduct further field trials. With additional funding, these new sensors are expected to become available to emergency responders, police and the military.

“Since 9/11, we’ve been focusing on search and rescue, so just in case we had another disaster, our robots can help the rescuers,” Casper said.

CRASAR is one of the only groups that can actually take these robots out into the field with firefighters, Micire said.

“I’ve been working with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue for three years in order to train with them to find out what rescuers do and where exactly robots would fit in,” Casper said.

For further information on CRASAR and the new medical sensors, visit .