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An aerial emergency response robot ready to begin the NIST performance test course (Photo from NIST)

When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, robots were sent to comb through the rubble and find and sustain the people trapped below, but they failed. Later, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Emergency Response Robotics team was funded to establish standard tests for ground, underwater and aerial robots that are used for emergency response missions.

  • Adam Jacoff, robotics research engineer at NIST who leads this team, said he and his colleagues develop measurement science for robots sent into hazardous scenarios, such as those involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to move people out of harm’s way.
  • Organizations use these standard test methods to determine the capabilities of robots and the proficiency of operators, said Jacoff.
  • Jacoff co-founded the RoboCup Rescue competition over 20 years ago, which he said initially focused on urban search and rescue missions and has become a “very vibrant development process” for standard test methods while helping get young engineers involved in robotics.
  • The Emergency Response Robotics team starts its work at a robotics prototyping facility then works with the community through competitions and test method validation exercises, usually performed with emergency responders in their training facilities, said Jacoff.
  • He said his organization works with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, the ASTM International Committee on Homeland Security Applications, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Border Patrol.

Watch the full interview:

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