23 Nov 2010

Rescue robots not effective - experts

5:09 pm on 23 November 2010

Robots are not yet effective for mine rescues and using one a West Coast mine where 29 men are trapped is a long shot, US experts say.

Sean Dessureault, a mine automation expert from the University of Arizona, says underground conditions are cold, wet and rough on the ground, making it tough for any robotic device.


Dr Dessureault says a robot put into a mine can quickly become covered in muck or seize up entirely. It always struggles to communicate effectively with operators.

It is extremely difficult to stop them giving off sparks, causing an explosion, he says.

A world expert on robots in rescue operations from Texas A&M University, Robin Murphy, says each robot is designed for a very specific situation and using them in a different environment is always a long shot.

Dr Murphy says robots have never successfully rescued trapped miners, but have been useful in working out the environmental conditions ahead of a sending in a rescue team.