This time last year, 33 miners were trapped 2300 feet below the Atacama Desert in Chile for 70 days. After a mining accident, first responders typically work against the clock to assess the situation, watching out for poisonous gases, flooded tunnels, explosive vapors and unstable walls and roofs before being able to save the miners. These necessary precautions can bring the rescue mission to a frustratingly slow pace.
To speed rescue efforts, engineers at Sandia National Laboratories just announced its Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot, which is equipped to handle any number of obstacles, including rubble piles and flooded rooms, to eliminate some of the unknowns of mine rescue operations and arm first responders with the most valuable tool: information.
IEEE’s Automaton blog first reported about the bot, writing: As capable as Gemini-Scout is, it doesn’t come with an attached multidimensional quantum escape tunnel or anything. While the robot is theoretically capable of dragging a human behind it, its primary mission is to scout ahead to send back video and sensor readings to help an actual rescue team safely and quickly get where they need to go. In the short term, the robot can also deliver vital supplies such as food, water, medicine, air packs, radios, and Sony PSPs to any miners who may be trapped out of immediate reach.
Sony PSPs are obviously very important once you’re spending near 70 days underground. Check out this video of the bot, who at less than four feet long and two feet tall, looks just like Wall-E!