The future robotic mountain rescuer as envisioned by researchers behind the SHERPA project

Robotic rescuers for Alpine disasters

Ground rovers equipped with robotic arms and cooperating with fleets of rescue drones as well as human rescuers could soon be saving lives of those trapped in Alpine calamities.

Part of the EU-funded project SHERPA, the venture aims to bring robotic systems out of predictable factory environments and deploy them in situations dangerous for human workers.

Such robots could become useful helpers for mountain rescue services, locating victims imprisoned in avalanches or inaccessible terrain.

The SHERPA team, consisting of ten European research institutions and companies, focuses on developing the robots’ autonomy, cognitive capabilities and strategy for cooperation with human counterparts.

In order to be able to control and communicate with the robots, human rescuers will have to be equipped with sensors and portable controls, allowing them to keep track the robots movements, their position and speed. Thanks to the cognitive algorithms, the robots and humans will be able to cooperatively search for the victims.

The robots can virtually serve as remote eyes for human workers, giving them accurate information about the situation in the area of the disaster without exposing them to the dangerous situation.

Researchers from the Dutch University of Twente have been developing control mechanisms and a robotic arm for the ground robot that will be tested at the group’s meeting in Twente to harmonise and test the results.

The robotic arm, capable of grasping the rescue drones in the air and manipulating them, features unique design with adjustable rigidity and improved resilience to shocks and vibrations.

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