FORT LEONARD WOOD — Soldiers in Missouri are testing new technology that could help save lives after a natural disaster or a terrorist bombing while keeping search-and-rescue teams safe.
The $700,000 Department of Defense project at Fort Leonard Wood is combining new and existing forms of technology that can be used by both the military and civilian first responders.
The technology includes sensors that detect heartbeats and respiration, infrared cameras and 3D imagers. They are deployed attached to drones and robots.
“We need information, and we need it quickly,” said 1st Lt. Davion Thomas, who was on the team evaluating the equipment at Fort Leonard Wood’s Urban Search and Rescue Range. “If we can get that information without putting the lives of our team at risk, all the better.”
“Saving lives is the name of the game,” Thomas said.
Under the simulation that played out last week at a rubble pile at the base, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone collapsed a building and a parking structure. The team is seeing if it can use the drones and robots to get information from a command post about 200 yards away.
They are looking for victims who are still alive, chemical and structure hazards that may slow down a rescue attempt, and accurate 3D maps of the entire area.
“It’s a way to allow us to be quicker and receive more information in a timely manner. It also allows us to get into areas of a rubble pile like this that maybe our team just can’t get into,” said Maj. Andrew Hanson.
With on-site testing of the equipment complete, the next step is to evaluate the data. Possible outcomes include deploying some or all of the technology in 2020, or making changes for additional tests.
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