A Mobile Robot for Reconnaissance of HAZMAT Incident Sites

by Richard V. Welch, California Inst of Technology, Pasadena, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Robotics for Challenging Environments


First entry into situations where hazardous materials have been accidentally spilled or released is extremely dangerous. Often the type of material, its exact location, and the extent of the spill is unknown. Mobile robots provide a means to safely explore an incident site locating the hazard as well as aiding in its identification and mitigation. This paper will describe a teleoperated mobile robot system being developed at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) for use by the JPL Fire Department HAZMAT (hazardous material) Team. The project, which began in October 1990, is focused on prototyping a robotic vehicle which can be quickly deployed and easily operated by HAZMAT Team personnel enabling remote entry and exploration of a hazardous material incident site. The close involvement of JPL Safety and Fire Department personnel has been critical in establishing system requirements as well as evaluating the system. The current robot, called HAZBOT III, has been specially design for operation in environments that may contain combustible gases. Testing of the system with the HAZMAT Team has shown that teleoperated robots can successfully gain access to incident sites allowing hazardous material spills to be remotely located and identified. Work is continuing to enable more complex missions through enhancement of the operator interface and field testing.

Subject Headings: Occupational safety | Hazardous materials spills | Hazardous substances | Automation and robotics | Material tests | Traffic accidents | Team building

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