How Are Robots Changing the Way We Manage Emergency Weather Events?
Climate change disasters always put people at risk. They affect people living nearby and cause others to put their lives on the line during rescues or recoveries. Robots minimize the potential loss of human life by responding in their place, putting themselves at risk to save lives.
Rescuers won’t have to potentially give their lives to save disaster victims, who can get more immediate help. Robots can deploy from almost anywhere while operating autonomously. They may also fit into spaces humans can’t reach, like crumbled infrastructure or underwater.
People could manage emergency weather events more effectively with robots. These are a few ways technology is already helping them live in a world heavily affected by climate change.
1. They Survey From the Sky
The U.S. dealt with over 7.5 million wildfires in 2022, which may only worsen due to climate change. Infrequent rainstorms leave much of the country dry throughout the year. Dry grasses and bushes catch fire more quickly when a stray cigarette or a spark from a transformer box touches the ground.
When a wildfire starts, response teams need to track where it’s spreading compared to the direction of local winds. Autonomous drones are much easier to launch and maneuver than sending a small plane into the sky.
The U.S. military lends its MQ-9 Reaper drones when wildfire season gets intense. The drones fly 20,000 feet above the ground but can focus their cameras 90 feet above the fires without dropping their altitude. Quick takeoffs and AI-powered mapping generate results faster, allowing response teams to minimize wildfire damage in their region.
2. They Rescue People Who Are Drowning
People don’t always have the option to evacuate before a hurricane or major storm. They stay behind to set up barriers like sandbag walls. They may protect buildings from some flood damage, but a 4-foot dike across 150 linear feet can take 455 hours to assemble and use over 11,000 bags.
There are also logistical challenges for people who can’t evacuate because they don’t own vehicles, are too advanced in age or have disabilities keeping them at home. Some households don’t have cable or internet, either. They may not know when the storm changes direction or grows in intensity.
Robotics can help rescue people who remain in floodwaters. They fly over disaster zones and spot survivors. Response teams use the footage to send robots like self-driving kickboards to pull individuals through the water. Others may send robots featuring wave-propulsion mechanisms to carry multiple survivors simultaneously.
3. They Fight Fires Via Remote Control
Wildfire responders maintain safety zones around whatever blaze they battle. They can only get so close due to the extreme heat generated by the intense flames. Robots can get closer than humans, making them excellent resources when managing emergency weather events.
Modern robots can get close to fires and pull their own hoses, extending the water’s reach. While planes drop water and fire-suppressing chemicals, robots can shrink the fire’s perimeters. It doubles a team’s efficacy and could shorten a wildfire’s burn time, ultimately saving more lives.
4. They Remove Rubble
People can only lift so many pounds, even if they’re the world’s strongest person. Robots gain strength from their materials and engine power. Being stronger than humans makes them essential when individuals are trapped under rubble after hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes.
They can also enter disaster zones unsafe for humans. When an extreme earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, nuclear reactor fuel leaked through the building. People still can’t enter the plant due to the radiation, but teams send four-legged robots inside to find the fuel’s location and map the terrain.
Saving lives and making spaces livable again are key parts of responding to emergency weather events. Robots make both more easily achievable with the strength and radiation-resistant support they contribute to ground response efforts.
5. They Deliver Medical Supplies
Climate change research shows disadvantaged communities experience disproportionate effects of global warming disasters. They may not have the economic resources to recover from previous weather systems before another storm strikes. Rural communities also lack immediate assistance, like hospitals, within minutes of victims.
Drones can carry 4 pounds of medical supplies and respond quickly to European natural disasters. The tech will reach the North American continent soon, too. Survivors who can get medical equipment, liters of blood and other medical supplies can be helped while it’s still impossible to evacuate due to rubble, high floodwaters or otherwise dangerous terrain.
6. They Decrease Emergency Response Carbon Footprints
Massive trucks, ships and planes carrying medical supplies and other essentials to disaster zones burn fossil fuels to reach their destinations. It makes the carbon footprint of each emergency much bigger, contributing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that worsen climate change.
Electric-powered drones can deliver supplies instead. They minimize the carbon footprint created by responding to natural disasters, fueling the next one by directly worsening the climate.
Transitioning to more response machinery like electric drones may occur quickly in the coming decades. Electric machinery purchases can come with tax credits to incentivize companies or individuals looking to create a sustainable future. It could be the financial boost investors need to permanently change how they respond to natural disasters.
7. They Provide Life Preservers by Swimming
Emergency weather events sometimes wash people into floodwaters or pull them into ocean currents. They’ll more easily tire and drown without something to float on, but it isn’t always possible to reach them by boat.
Swimming robots can move on land and water, carrying life preservers to those in need. Some even dive into great depths using ray-inspired fins and waterproof engines to scout for underwater victims and return them to their families.
8. They Search for Survivors
A drone’s eye view could be the key to finding more survivors faster after climate change events occur. They fly quickly and use high-powered cameras to locate people in minutes. Drones are already saving individuals overseas after earthquakes with laser-based lidar technology and infrared or heat-sensing cameras.
Prepare for Robotic Emergency Weather Event Responses
Robots are changing how emergency weather events are managed, which is crucial in a world affected by climate change. The more frequent and intensified systems won’t take as many lives when robots help people fight fires, locate survivors and rebuild communities.
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