Bio-inspired search and rescue robotics

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Research lead
Dr Jordan Boyle

Research team 
Dr Abbas Dehghani-Sanij, Rob Richardson

Project overview

Despite significant advances in technology and science, natural disasters remain a very real threat to human populations around the world. The challenging task of finding survivors among the rubble of collapsed or damaged buildings is one where mobile robots could make an extremely valuable contribution. The problem, of course, is that this sort of environment is extremely challenging from a locomotion point of view. Traditional wheeled or tracked robots have little chance of successfully navigating through the complex and irregular spaces between debris so alternative strategies must be identified. We look to the natural world for inspiration.

An EPSRC funded project developed a robotic system, biologically inspired by the European mole, to imbue search and rescue robots with unique capabilities. The developed system has the capability to burrow through loose debris to gain access deep within damaged buildings to search for survivors. The other search and rescue robot under development is a serpentine (snake-like) robot, although the animal it draws its inspiration from is actually a worm called C. elegans (that also crawls with sinusoidal undulations).