Its name is an incomprehensible encryption: “Tradr”. Yet, hope and technology, art and solidarity hide behind it. It is the acronym of “Teaming for Robot Assisted Disaster Response” and it concerns the study of the possibility to use robots to help the rescuers in emergencies. The purpose of this project is to develop technologies for the cooperation between operators and robots in critical situations, also when it comes to multiple or complex missions, where continuity and resilience are needed.
The project was funded by the European Commission – Directorate General for Information and Media – Cognitive Systems, Interaction and Robotics – 7th Framework Programme, and it has seen the participation of the Fire Brigade of the National Body both as the End-User of the systems and as a scientific partner responsible for the dissemination of the project’s operation results.
It is one of the positive aspects of technology, which is often misused by man who relegates it to free time and fun, let alone that sometimes such activities are alienating. It is perhaps the most visible difference between mass and niche technology: the first is destined to be used by companies to make profits, the second passes mainly through universities and research centers. Currently, these robots are in action in Amatrice. They do not to rescue people, but are used to reach places that are inaccessible, thus allowing to monitor the condition of the structures and works of art. Five unmanned vehicles, two terrestrial robots and three drones have been employed in the operations in Amatrice.
Firefighters, before working in the two churches of St. Francis and St. Augustine, some of the buildings that have been damaged the most by the earthquake, have received the photographic material obtained thanks to the drones and robots coordinated by Ivana Kruijff Korbayova, responsible for Tradr .
Researchers, who come from the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria, as well as from the Italian University ‘‘La Sapienza’’, reached the area struck by the earthquake in 48 hours. These technologies made it possible to shore up collapsing structures and to secure works of art of great value, such as historical frescoes that survived the shocks.
The Tradr system moves in synchrony: the drones enter remaining suspended in the air and sending images of what is on the field; the robots test whether a road is viable and safe. People follow them, intervening only after the robots check. “Entering with the drone was a difficult challenge – reads Tradr’s official site – and we managed to overcome it thanks to the collaboration between three drones used in parallel: a drone (piloted by Hartmut Surmann with the support of Erik Zimmermann) entered through a hole in the roof, while the other two (piloted by Kresimir Dilic and Wolfgang Rottner) provided simultaneous video feeds from different angles. The mission fulfilled its goal, which consisted in collecting data to build 3D models with high quality texture. Another great success – they point out – was the fact that the Tradr team has been able to arrive on the spot within 48 hours after having received the request.”
Researchers have experimented robots and drones for the first time in Italy in 2012 in Mirandola, Emilia Romagna, during the earthquake, and now in Amatrice. Yet, we are still in a development phase and the intensive operational employment of the robots to save lives is not possible yet; as we have already mentioned, they mostly operate to recover works of art, and it is no small thing.