If current technology trends are any indication, it's possible that human lifeguards could be replaced by robots in the future. So far, we've seen a remote-controlled rescue buoy and a salamander-like bot that travels on both water and land, among many others. Rather than having to cut through rough water to get to folks in trouble like many search and rescue robot designs, an Iranian research center proposes a quadcopter called Pars that launches from a floating platform and drops life preservers precisely where they're needed.
RTS Lab began developing Pars to address the high number of drowning victims in the Caspian Sea along the Iranian coastline. After creating a short-range rescue bot to help people near beaches, the team set to work on an improved model with much better capabilities.
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The Pars design calls for a lightweight quadcopter equipped with a slew of sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, a barometer, and an electronic compass. It's most distinguishing feature, however, is a series of latches underneath that can hold and release life preservers one at a time. The most recent design can hold three tubes at once, but the developers claim future models could stock over 15 by using a chemical material that expands the padding after release.
An operator would be able to remotely control the robots manually or an onboard artificial intelligence could allow it to act autonomously in certain situations. RTS Lab says it has made a point of keeping the controls simple, so that a rescue worker could learn to operate them with just a few days of training.
The group also designed a charging station that would use solar energy to recharge several Pars units when they are docked. The designers claim the platform could be attached to the top of a rescue boat or offshore structure and could even be modified into a standalone floating station. In the event of system failure or low power, the aerial bot floats in water even without the life preservers, so it can easily be recovered later.
If Pars works as well as its designers claim, it could have quite a few notable advantages over most rescue robots we've seen before. For one, it could attend to multiple people in one trip, whereas most amphibious robots are only equipped to handle one person at a time.
Flying over the waves also allows Pars to bypass any obstacles or rough water conditions that might be inaccessible to anything traveling by water (or even full-sized helicopters by air). Though how it would handle in a violent storm remains to be seen.
The quadcopter could also be equipped for aerial reconnaissance, giving rescuers a bird's-eye viewpoint of an emergency situation and allowing them to get the proper equipment ready before they even reach the site of an accident.
According to RTS Lab, most of the initial design work for the robot itself has been completed and tested, though the current model does not include ultrasound sensors or artificial intelligence. Right now, the researchers are seeking funding to build an industrial prototype and eventually mass produce Pars to get it into the hands of rescue workers worldwide.
Source: RTS LabView gallery - 6 images