The BIRD Foundation, a US-Israeli partnership that promotes research and development projects between companies from the two nations, has picked US-based Mantaro Networks Inc. and Beeper Communications Israel to develop unmanned search and rescue technologies that can complement the work of human first responders.
The two companies will use the $900,000 award by the foundation to develop robots as first responders, to fill in the “capability gaps” of humans, based on feedback and information from the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Technology Plan for Emergency Response to Catastrophic Incidents. The project will be funded over an 18-month period.
The project is the result of the BIRD Foundation’s “NextGen First Responders program,” which called for proposals established in partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security and Israel’s Public Security Ministry.
“In an age where man-made and natural disasters have become global phenomena, it is important to integrate the various responders and their agencies, to minimize casualties and damage to infrastructure and private property,” said Moshe Levinson, senior vice president of the Tel Aviv-based communications startup Beeper Communications Israel, in a statement.
“We are very glad that BIRD is investing in our development efforts to support first responders and provide the next generation of technology to these men and women,” he said.
The Unmanned Search and Rescue Systems (USRS) project aims to develop “the ability of autonomous operation of robotic unmanned devices” and to enable them to cooperate with first responders, with the support of broadband and resilient communication networks. The technologies will use new methods and algorithms to allow for the decentralized command and control of first responder teams and the autonomous robots, the statement said.
The two companies said that the wireless broadband infrastructure they intend to create will allow robotic monitoring of the disaster scenario as first responders intervene and exchange information and data. This will enable field data to be shared and processed more efficiently by multiple agencies sharing the same emergency response effort, the two companies said.
Mantaro, a Maryland-based engineering and robotics startup, claims to have already achieved an important step in the USRS project through the development of a fully functional Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for use in emergency operations, which uses cellular and data technology, a “cellular bonder” developed by Beeper and which allows the UGV to exchange large amounts of media-data from the field.
“This not only provides real time operational views and information from the field to the command center, but also allows operation of the UGV from anywhere, further removing first responder personnel from harm’s way during uncertain and challenging situations,” Mantaro CEO Jeremy Parsons said in the statement.
Further technological imput to the project will come from US-based security firms and police departments in several US cities, enabling the companies to glean knowledge and access to gunshot-detecting sensors, smart sensors and threat recognition and identification monitoring systems. The USRS also hopes to integrate geolocation technology into its overall response system, and get feedback from agencies already using the technology. The two companies said that they have already received interest from the police departments of Houston and Baltimore about giving feedback for the USRS project.
Founded in 1977, the BIRD (Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation has been sponsoring “mutually beneficial” industrial research and development projects for more than three decades, often in the scientific and technological sector.