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Sandia's Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot

The Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot | Video Courtesy of Sandia Laboratories

One of the biggest obstacles to rescuing miners after an accident is the unknown level of danger. Before rescuers are able to get miners to safety, they must assess the situation, often taking up time critical to the success of the rescue. Poisonous gases, flooded tunnels, explosive vapors and unstable walls and roofs are among the potentially deadly conditions and unknown obstacles that can slow rescue efforts.

To increase the speed of rescue efforts, scientists and engineers at the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories recently developed a new robot, called the Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot, that quickly finds dangers and provides relief to trapped miners.

The robot is less than four feet long and two feet tall and nimble enough to navigate through 18 inches of water, crawl over boulders and rubble piles, and move in ahead of rescuers to evaluate precarious environments and help them plan the rescue mission. Additionally, the robot is able to haul food, air packs and medicine to those trapped underground and can be configured to drag survivors to safety.

It is equipped with two-way communication radios, gas sensors, a thermal camera to locate survivors, and another pan-and-tilt camera mounted several feet up to see the obstacles they’re facing. For easier usability, it is guided by a remote control modeled after an Xbox 360 game controller.

Designers of the Gemini-Scout robot modeled it to deal with nearly every known mine hazard. To protect the robot from gases and fire, the electronics are housed in casings designed to withstand an explosion. The robot is also protected from floods because its controls and equipment are waterproof.

The robot is being demonstrated in Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems North America 2011 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.