Search and rescueWireless underground robots for first responders

Published 7 February 2012

First responders may have to look for victims in hostile or challenging environments, such as clandestine tunnels, subway systems, and underground structures; sending a wireless robot to look around and pull victims out would be safer

Allen-Vanguard announced the other day its collaboration with WFS Defense, a supplier of through-ground and through-water wireless communications technology, to develop and demonstrate the what the company describes as the industry’s first Wireless Underground Robots for First Responders (WURFR) robotic vehicle. The

announcement was made on the opening day of the Security & Policing Exhibition 2012, in Farnborough, United Kingdom.

During emergency incidents, first responders deploy Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to avoid exposing themselves to unnecessary risks in hostile or challenging environments, such as clandestine tunnels, subway systems, and underground structures. The WURFR project, co-funded by the U.K. Technology Strategy Board, will alleviate the logistics currently posed by hardwire tethers or multiple repeaters needed to control a robot in these situations. This will be achieved through the seamless integration of WFS’s through-ground wireless communications into Allen-Vanguard’s Digital Vanguard robot.

Allen-Vanguard president & CEO, Dennis Morris, commented: “Our WURFR-generation robot will improve First Responder safety by enabling operators to remain above ground while reliably communicating with their ROV as it conducts visual reconnaissance, detects hazardous substances and mitigates threats.” He continued, “This unprecedented capability will greatly simplify on site operations and reduce costs for inspecting and clearing high risk underground locations.”

The WURFR-enabled ROV will use WFS’ wireless modems to provide 2-way communications, track its location, stream video, and convey data from sensors. Allen-Vanguard’s Digital Vanguard (see YouTube video) is a suitable platform for this project based on its operational capabilities and large user base of first responders and security agencies.