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What CMU's Snake Robot Team Learned While Searching for Mexican Earthquake Survivors


A Carnegie Mellon University snake robot.

Days after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City, Carnegie Mellon University sent its snake robots in to look for survivors.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) used their snake robots in search-and-rescue missions in Mexico City shortly after a major earthquake struck the region in September.

In an interview, CMU's Matt Travers and Howie Choset discuss the insights gained from the deployment.

"What makes this snake robot unique is that it has a small cross-sectional diameter," Choset says. "It has the benefit of being small, but the potential locomotive capabilities of much larger robots, making it versatile."

The snake robot is equipped with a camera on the front, but Travers says dogs and microphones used by the human crews were more effective, as sound and smell travel through concrete better than light does.

"It was interesting to see how much better our system performed next to the closest system in the [Red Cross'] toolbox, which was the camera on the stick," Travers notes.

Choset says the snake robot also is the best option for entering tight spaces.

From IEEE Spectrum
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