UKZN designs robot to help SA emergency services

2009-11-17 00:00

SOUTH African emergency services will soon receive a helping hand thanks to an innovative group of University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students who designed a search-and- rescue robot to assist in disasters.

The “contractible arms elevating search-and- rescue robot”, or Caesar, was unveiled yesterday after three years of development and testing, and is set to improve search-and-rescue services in South Africa.

As soon as an emergency call is received, workers will be dispatched and the robot will be sent out to gather information, saving time and energy for the rescue.

Riaan Stopforth of the mechanics and robotics research group search- and-rescue division said that terrorist attacks, chemical spillages and sea rescues prompted students to start the project.

“Rescue workers have about 48 hours to retrieve victims. Several hours are lost when rescuers are unsure of buildings’ stability,” he said.

He said the unit wanted to help search-and- rescue personnel during disasters and prevent the further loss of lives.

“Rescue workers’ lives are at risk everyday. Yet search-and- rescue robots are usually seen as vital by the community,” he said.

The Caesar has flipper arms which assist the robot to move around, climb inclines and reverse.

It can also retract its arms to move into confined spaces where rescue wor­kers cannot enter.

The robot has a thermal ca­mera that can reveal objects in surrounding areas and a special sensor enables it to detect smoke.Thermal imaging, gas sensing, audio feed and thermal shielding were included in the robot to help it find victims easily.

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