The Fraunhofer FKIE takes part in establishing the German Rescue Robotics Center

The Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE is one of 13 partners from the fields of emergency response, research and industry involved in the establishment of the German Rescue Robotics Center (A-DRZ) in Dortmund. The project, funded with 11.9 million euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), will officially kick off on 6 December. The mission of the new center is to promote the use of robots in rescue scenarios that pose excessive risks to emergency personnel.

© Fraunhofer FKIE
In the future, robots will support emergency personnel in dangerous situations. The new Rescue Robotics Center located in Dortmund will promote innovative developments and make them available to users.

Thousands of rescue workers worldwide are injured or killed every year while carrying out their work. Despite good training and ever-improving protective equipment, they always run the risk of being exposed to situations that pose a danger to life and limb. This is where robots can help. Robots can conduct reconnaissance of the area of operation, collect important information about precise conditions on site and injured persons, and even perform active rescue tasks in precarious situations such as recovering injured persons, detecting and securing hazardous substances or extinguishing fires. The demands placed on the robots are complex and varied.

The establishment of the German Rescue Robotics Center means that for the first time ever in Germany, emergency forces, researchers and industry can work in a coordinated manner to build autonomous rescue-support robots and the establishment of both a national and international robotics task force. Four key scenarios form the basis of the center's work: fire, collapse & burial, detection of hazardous substances, and flooding. On the site of the former Dortmund industrial site Phönix-West, where the new center is located, a »living lab« will also be set up for this purpose. The laboratory will have adjoining interior and exterior test areas where scientists, companies and users can jointly research solutions for rescue-support robots and test them under realistic operating conditions.

»The aim is to make the technology and functions of the robots as modular and flexible as possible,« explains Thomas Barz, a scientist in the Cognitive Mobile Systems department at the Fraunhofer FKIE and head of the project at the institute. »The more different mobility platforms that can be used, the greater the potential for collaboration among research institutions, industry and users, and thus those who study, supply and use the technology.« Barz says that this offers advantages for the timely introduction and practical application of these systems.

The key task of the Fraunhofer FKIE is therefore to develop a cross-platform modularization concept for robots of different size classes. This will serve as a technical consolidation point for cross-partner cooperation. The institute draws on more than 25 years of experience in the research and development of unmanned mobile systems and innovative procedures for their assisted semi-autonomous and autonomous guidance. In addition, as an experienced organizer of international robotics competitions, the institute will support the development of new events at the DRZ for robotics requirements and performance analysis.

The A-DRZ project, which will initially run for four years, is funded by the BMBF as part of the German Federal Government's »Research for Civil Security 2012 to 2017« program and coordinated by the Dortmund Institute for Fire Service and Rescue Technology. The aim of this interdisciplinary network is to establish a permanent center of excellence that promotes innovative developments in the field of rescue robotics and makes them available on the market.