Groups join forces for DHS rescue robot standards

October 07, 2005

At the recommendation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this month asked ASTM International to work with NIST and other stakeholders to develop voluntary consensus standards for urban search and rescue (US&R) robots. ASTM will disseminate the final consensus approved standards and test methods via its Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications.

To assist this effort, NIST engineers, first responders, technology developers and robot vendors have begun to examine potential types of standards as well as tests needed to certify compliance to them. The comprehensive US&R standards drive, sponsored by DHS, is aimed at increasing federal, state and local officials' confidence in the emerging technology, spurring the purchase and deployment of the potentially life-saving devices.

Participants in a series of NIST-hosted workshops to define performance requirements identified at least 13 different robot varieties that may be applicable to search and rescue, from R2D2-type machines that search for victims within collapsed buildings to aerial ledge landers and aquatic bottom crawlers. They also counted more than 100 possible individual performance requirements in the categories of human-system interaction, logistics, operating environment, and system components (which includes chassis, communications, mobility, payload, power and sensing). Additional requirements are expected to arise during the standardization process.

The project Web site lists the robot categories and specific areas of inquiry at . First responders, robot vendors and technology vendors who have suggestions for technologies to focus on or promising US&R robots to consider as well those interested in serving on the ASTM E54 standards committee, should contact Elena Messina at 301-975-3235 or

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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