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Disasters

— Robotics

Search-and-rescue robot could give locusts a better name

Despite the fact that locusts are held in fairly low regard by us humans, there's a chance that you may one day be rescued by one … or at least, by a robotic locust. Working with colleagues at Israel's Ort Braude College, researchers from Tel Aviv University have created a tiny locust-inspired robot that can reportedly jump over twice as high as other similarly-sized devices. They say that it could ultimately find use in search-and-rescue operations at disaster sites.

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— Drones

Drone attachment scans disaster zones for breathing and heartbeats

Getting drones into the air to aid in search and rescue missions is becoming one of the technology's more promising applications, with infrared cameras and even artificial intelligence offering valuable new tools in combing areas for humans and objects. But one company is looking to add yet another layer of sophistication to robotic rescue teams, launching a drone-attachment that can detect the heartbeats and breathing of people trapped under rubble.

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— Around The Home

Tough new tornado panels take a stormy beating

A tornado hitting your house is no joke, but it's not always practical to build a shelter just in case the worst should happen. If the thought of jumping into a protective bag doesn't appeal, a new tough construction panel developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) could be a good alternative. UAB's new panels can be retrofitted to existing houses or integrated into new builds, and offer protection even in the most extreme EF5 tornado – that is, in winds over 200 mph (321 km/h).

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Prototype shelter offers basic home for displaced Nepalese

Efforts to design a safe and affordable home for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people have resulted in some impressive architectural innovation, including the Bamboo Micro House, S House, and Ikea's Better Shelter. The recently-built Temporary Shelter in Nepal is aimed at offering displaced Nepalese a basic but flexible shelter that can be built by a group of unskilled workers within three days.

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— Good Thinking

Crowdsourced smartphones may warn of earthquakes

While countries such as Japan have sophisticated earthquake warning systems, the fact is that many less-developed countries do not. In order to offer those nations some form of protection, a consortium of US research institutes has devised the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System, in which regular peoples' smartphones could detect earthquakes and send warnings. Read More
— Good Thinking

New maritime monitoring system would draw on existing satellites

According to a scientist from the University of Leicester in the UK, the search for missing ships and sea-crossing aircraft – such as Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – would be much easier if existing satellites were simply used differently. Dr. Nigel Bannister is developing a system in which spacecraft that already keep an eye on the land could also turn their attention to the sea. Read More
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