Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications is in process of developing an Intelligent Mobile Robots (IMR) which would be used for disaster mitigation and fire fighting. The mobile robots will be equipped with all modern sensing and communication devices with on-board computational capabilities. The intelligent mobile robots would have features including detection and extinguishing fire, intelligent behavior such as object detection, target tracking, collision avoidance, formation movement of a group of robots and autonomous and manual control.
The Ministry is funding the project through National ICT Research and Development Fund (Ignite) and Principal Investigator’s Organization (PIO) is PAF Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology. The cost of this on-going project is Rs.14.68 million. As per details, the IMRs will be built in-house and will also be available for local industries/hospitals/offices. The intelligent mobile robots will be able to execute a mission (e.g. object detection in a complex terrain, surveying, trajectory following etc) by incorporating intelligent techniques and robust control algorithms.
The past records indicate a high frequency of disasters of multiple nature and magnitudes as experienced by Pakistani nation. These disasters include industrial fires, terrorism, floods and earthquakes. The industrial sector of Pakistan is huge and consist of myriad industrial units ranging from cement manufacturing, dying units, steel, glass, paints and many others in which heavy machinery is utilized.
Due to the ad-hoc nature of industrial setup and absence of stringent rules and regulations governing the installation and commissioning of boilers, heaters and many other electro-mechanical equipment, accidents are frequent. In most of the cases the accidents no matter what the cause leads to fire. The fire fighting department, in most cities is unable to provide immediate support for extinguishing the fire.
Quick and effective rescue operation cannot be guaranteed due to many unavoidable reasons. Fire fighting is a dangerous job which in certain situations may lead to severe casualties of the work force involved. Therefore, the scope of the project is to develop a group of intelligent cooperative fire fighting and disaster mitigation mobile robots which can perform critical operations in adverse circumstances and hazardous environments. Mobile robots will be developed that can be included as a work force in the fire fighting department. When contacted, official sources said Intelligent Mobile Robots are extensively used nowadays in many applications and they are extremely helpful.
They can be effectively utilized in life threatening missions as well as in harsh weathers for surveillance investigation, tracking, rescue operation and map generation. Use of sensor network based technologies can enhance the level of preparedness and ability to handle consequences of the disaster.
Applications which have human risks such as handling of nuclear waste, identification of location of explosives, etc., show the potential of use of mobile robots functioning as a group. IMR’s with all of the state-of-the-art technologies built into it are very costly. Small scale IMRs are available in market but all of them have manual control which is difficult to manage and even the experienced personnel cannot guarantee a successful mission.—APP