Search and rescue robots (S&R robots) were put through their paces in two complex and realistic disaster scenarios as part of a special rescue robot supporting program at RoboCup 2009 – the robotics world championships - in Graz, Austria. In recognition of the potentially lifesaving uses of rescue robots, RoboCup 2009 promoted their development in the separate category “RoboCup Rescue”, building on the success of the RoboCup Soccer project through technical discussion forums of technical discussions and competitive evaluations for researchers and practitioners. Remote-controlled search and rescue robots are becoming increasingly sophisticated and have already been used in rescue missions where human or animal participation would have been too difficult or dangerous. RoboCup Rescue promotes R&D of rescue robotics through realistic re-enactments in the areas of simulation and real rescue.
In the first scenario, amidst smoke and fire, a flight robot had to find a victim on the rooftop of the Stadthalle and send information via video signals to rescue personnel. In the real world, blazing flames on the eighth floor of a skyscraper would make reconnaissance and the search for injured people life threatening for fire and rescue services. A remote controlled flight robot however can help by gaining an overview of the situation and sending information to the rescue services on the ground.
In the second scenario, rescue robots had to contend with a crashed automobile loaded with hazardous materials. "Telemax", a metal robot operated by remote control was used to retrieve the sensitive substances and bring them out of the danger zone.
Disaster rescue is one of the most serious social issues which involves very large numbers of heterogeneous agents in a hostile environment. The RoboCup Rescue project works to further research and development through multi-agent team coordination, physical robotic agents for search and rescue, information infrastructures, personal digital assistants, a standard simulator and decision support systems, evaluation benchmarks for rescue strategies and robotic systems that are all integrated into a comprehensive system in the future.
The rescue robotics program also featured practical training courses for first responders, providing an environment for search and rescue services from around the world to practice operating flight robots, go on a reconnaissance mission in a specially designed rescue area with rescue robots or practice various manipulation tasks and recover hazardous materials or retrieve injured persons using remote controlled robots, and a workshop for rescuers and robotics researchers to exchange experiences.