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ASTM International Committee on Homeland Security to Develop Standards for Urban Search and Rescue Robots

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Robots have a long and storied history in science fiction, but the rapid advance of technology has placed robotics very much within the realm of science fact. A new ASTM International initiative has now been launched that will investigate the role of robots in search and rescue operations.

ASTM International has recently been selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a series of standards on urban search and rescue (US&R) robots. The selection comes at the suggestion of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has been formally studying ideas for developing US&R robots. This new initiative will happen within ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications, under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E54.08 on Operational Equipment.

"We are very pleased to facilitate this important, ground breaking initiative," says Philip Mattson, chair of Subcommittee E54.08. "The performance metrics and test methods developed through this effort will hopefully assist in the development and refinement of these critical technologies, and serve as a roadmap for future endeavors."

Subcommittee E54.08 will be using information gathered in the NIST study to determine which type of US&R standards will be developed first. In the study, which was requested by DHS, first responders, technology developers, robot vendors, and NIST engineers have examined the range of potential US&R standards, and the tests that would need to be developed to certify compliance to the standards.

The comprehensive US&R standards drive, supported by DHS, is aimed at increasing confidence in the emerging technology at federal, state and local levels, spurring the eventual purchase and deployment of the potentially life-saving devices. Standardization is an important part of this process, since standards-related interoperability could reduce manufacturing costs.

Participants in three NIST-coordinated workshops identified at least 13 different robot varieties that may be applicable to search and rescue - from large machines that search for victims within collapsed buildings to aerial ledge landers and aquatic bottom crawlers. Workshop attendees also counted more than 100 individual performance requirements for robotic technologies for sensing, mobility, navigation, planning, integration and operator control.

The address of the project web site, which lists the robot categories and specific areas of inquiry, is First responders, robot vendors and technology developers with suggestions for technologies to focus on and promising US&R robots to consider, as well those interested in serving on a standards committee, can contact Elena Messina (phone: 301/975-3235;

For further technical information, contact Philip Mattson, NIST, Gaithersburg, Md. (phone: 301/975-3396; Committee E54 will meet Feb. 6-8, 2006, at the January-February Committee Week in Phoenix, Ariz. For membership or meeting details, contact Pat Picariello, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9720;


Release #7239