The Italian Almanac

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rescue robot

Italian News - November 2

A group of international scientists are in Rome this week comparing notes on the development of robots capable of rescuing people from fires, earthquakes and other disasters. Fire fighters and emergency experts are excited about the life-saving potential the increasingly sophisticated 'search and rescue robots' offer.

The machines, which are often no bigger than 30cm high, can reach areas inaccessible to people and dogs, and detect the slightest movement or sound of a disaster victim. But the field, in which Italy is a leader, is still in its infancy and the use of rescue robots in real disasters has been limited up to now. So experts need events like this convention, which runs until Wednesday, to cooperate, share knowledge and run tests in order to move forward.

Scientists from over 50 countries are taking part in the initiative, which was organized by Rome University's Intelligent Systems for Emergencies and Civil Defence Research Laboratory.

The fact that rescue robots have not been used a great deal in real disaster situations is partly due to a catch-22 situation, scientists say. When a disaster hits, rescuers usually do not want to waste precious time with technology whose effectiveness has not be proven on the ground. Naturally, it is difficult for this to happen until the equipment is tested when it counts.