Robots and drones could replace humans in emergencies

An army of robotic rovers, boats and drones could be sent into emergency situations to rescue lives without putting emergency responders at risk using technology developed by an Australian company.

Sydney firm Advanced Navigation launched a mobile modem on Wednesday that will allow robots communicate with drones controlled by its software.

Its makers say the equipment, which has already undergone testing in Australia and the US, could be used to rescue people and wildlife in bushfires, as well as preventing drownings and cleaning up after natural disasters.

The innovation is the latest boost to Australia’s growing drone and robot industry, which has seen the remotely controlled machines used for everything from flying medical supplies to remote communities to managing farming land and energy infrastructure.

Advanced Navigation founder and chief executive Xavier Orr said the company’s new device could be used to connect and command robots, like unmanned land rovers and boats, using simple controls in a web browser.

Emergency responders could use the technology to send multiple robots and drones into the field at once to identify fires, sharks, environmental disasters, as well as wildlife hubs.

Mr Orr said the CGConnect modem had already been tested by Surf Life Saving groups in Queensland and NSW as well as Clean Earth Rovers that operated ocean-cleaning, robotic vessels in the US, and had potential to be used in more environments.

“We’re looking at drone delivery applications, we’re in discussions with NSW Fire about using drone fleets to look out for spot fires using (artificial intelligence) so they can be tackled before they become much bigger, more problematic fires,” he said.

“And we’re also looking at applications… to do counting of wildlife and identify where habitats are.”

Jason Young, chief executive of drone operations group Ripper Corp, said being able to control several drones and robots remotely would help keep emergency responders out of deadly situations.

Mr Young said the company, which was also responsible for surf life saving drone operations, planned to send multiple robots into risky situations such as bushfires and into forests to identify how animals could be reached.

“Leveraging our aerial drones, we use thermal detection and artificial intelligence to survey and spot a wide variety of wildlife such as koalas, gliders, owls,” he said.

“We then use ground rovers to find a clear path for responders to safely enter the area.”

Advanced Navigation raised $108 million in its latest funding round last year to develop robotics, navigation and artificial intelligence applications.

A new report from Deloitte predicted the drone industry would boost Australia’s bottom line by $14.5 billion over the next 20 years, and deliver cost savings of $9.3 billion in industries including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining and construction.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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