Local Robot Researchers Assist in Japanese Underwater Search

ST. PETERSBURG (2011-4-29) -

Researchers from USF's Center for Ocean Technology and a Saint Petersburg company have returned from a week-long trip to Japan, where they used underwater robots to assist in the search following the deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Karen Dreger, a research associate at the USF Center for Ocean Technology
and Eric Steimle from AEOS Inc.The researchers worked members of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue , led by former USF Professor, Dr. Robin Murphy, on a recovery mission in northern Japan.

Speaking at a demonstration of two of the three robots they used, Steimle said, while they didn't find any bodies, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"When the goal is to find victims and you don't find them, it's disappointing," he said. "But a negative result is still good because they know there is nothing out there, so they don't have to look."

"Everybody thought there'd be bodies in certain parts--there weren't, which means their modeling is wrong or the way we think about the flow of the water and debris is flawed."

The researchers and their robots searched areas where it would be dangerous for human divers, clearing them so local fishermen could get back to work. Funding limited the team to only five days worth of searching, but Steimle hopes to return to Japan to continue the work soon.

We'll have more on the team's work coming up on University Beat the week of May 9th.

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