Engineers at Sandia National Laboratory have developed a scout robot nicknamed Gemini that could aid in rescuing miners trapped by cave-ins or other disasters. It can navigate through 18 in. of standing water, crawl over boulders and piles of rubble, and gather information that will help rescuers plan their operations. For example, it carries gas senors that detect whether the air is breathable, a thermal camera that can locate survivors, and a pan-and-tilt camera mounted high enough to see obstacles and pitfalls ahead.
The robot measures 2-ft high and a little under 4-ft long. Tracked wheels let it turn on a dime in tight situations and climb over foot-tall safety hatches common in underground mines. The robot can carry food, air packs, and medicine to trapped miners. A two-way radio on the robot lets rescuers communicate with those trapped underground. The robot is also powerful enough to pull a survivor to safety.
To ensure the robot is easy to control, the Sandia team made its controls from an Xbox 360 game controller. They even copied many of the common game interfaces so rescuers can learn to control it quickly.
Although targeted at mining disasters, the Gemini robot could also find use in earthquakes, fires, and other catastrophes.