At AUVSI’s (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) massive robot conference in D.C. this week there is no shortage of robots designed to seek out--and in some cases destroy--human targets. Sandia National Labs chose to go in the opposite direction with their Gemini-Scout, a remotely controlled rolling robot designed specifically to lead search and rescue efforts in the event of a mining disaster.
When mines collapse, the biggest hindrance to a speedy search and rescue operation is the lack of information. Mining accidents generally bring about a buffet of dangerous conditions: structural weaknesses within the shafts themselves, poisonous vapors, explosive gases, flooded tunnels, etc. Rescue crews can’t charge into such conditions without proper reconnaissance, lest they risk compounding the situation by creating a second disaster on top of the first.Gemini-Scout is designed to cope with all of these things so it can get down into a mine quickly, searching for survivors and assessing threats so human searchers can get into place as quickly as possible. Its tracked propulsion and articulated suspension allow it to climb rubble piles and crawl over uneven terrain. In the ground demo area at AUVSI, Gemini rolled easily over stair-like obstacles and into the sand and gravel pits, turning tight circles and kicking up a mess before climbing out just as easily. It took 45-degree climbs with no serious problems, and at less than two feet tall it maneuvered through tight spaces with ease.