Robolliance Sponsors Expound on Robotics Applications for Natural Disasters

Here is the second installment to the new quarterly online feature, Robolliance Corner, which offers content authored by subject-matter experts to explore and inform on the autonomous robotics marketplace.

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Security Sales & Integration introduced a new quarterly online feature earlier this month called “Robolliance Corner,” offering exclusive articles and other content authored by sponsors of the Robolliance.

SSI is the security media partner of Robolliance, a forum for technology partners and industry experts in robotics, surveillance and security to advance the understanding and awareness of the autonomous robotics marketplace. Sharp Electronics Corp. (SEC) first introduced the forum at PSA-TEC 2016.

In this second installment of “Robolliance Corner,” 10 subject-matter experts provide responses to the following question, which aims to illuminate risk mitigation and emergency response lessons to be learned from the past six months of natural disasters and terror incidents. 

In what ways do you believe security robotics and associated technologies could be deployed in the future to predict, prevent, reduce losses or respond to natural disasters and acts of terror?

Cynthia HetheringtonCynthia Hetherington
Hetherington Group

Robotics and intelligence have always been the handmaiden when our first responders can’t reach or won’t risk peril to themselves. Though you see many uses of drones to observe from afar or operator-controlled bomb disposal robots to handle precarious packages, what about using social media?

Social media during Hurricane Harvey was an incredible tool for security managers, who had multiple locations and employees spread throughout Florida, Houston and the islands affected by flooding and outages. As social media investigators, we were able to assist these directors to locate employees who had not contacted their offices yet, but were updating family and friends on Instagram and Facebook.

With lessons learned, we equipped for Hurricane Irma by distributing company-wide a simple hashtag #companysafe.  Employees were told to check in with the hashtag post-event to alert their employer they were OK.

Many large or international companies have employee emergency systems in place, but often they are multi-platform and complicated.  Nothing beats the ease of use in post #companysafe on Twitter.  Save the complexity of emerging technology applications, like unmanned security patrolling of your perimeter, and look to simplify emergency communication with certain tools available to the masses.  

BG William Marshall BG William J. Marshall
New Jersey Innovation Institute
Executive Director 

In my role for NJII and NJIT, I sent personnel to Hurricane Harvey in support of a corporate teammate who was experiencing severe flooding. The two teams deployed operated small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct level 1 and 2 inspections on cell phone towers.

The environment was extremely dangerous as one might imagine, even 24 hours after the storm. Our teams, which consisted of a remote pilot (in command) and a visual observer, received daily situational and safety briefings for each of the sites that they would assess.

Based on UAV findings, the best transportation to and from the affected area was airboats that had been contracted by the service provider and proved invaluable in conducting these assessments. The airboat operators were familiar with the site locations, which helped in accessing and positioning resources.

The data was then communicated to the service provider in several formats depending on the availability of bandwidth. Remember that the flooded areas had compromised equipment that normally would provide for a redundancy in the systems. This became a challenge and in some cases, flash drives were used to provide the necessary feedback for review by the subject matter experts who were offsite.

The overall operation was a complete success and our crews were in the queue for redeployment to Hurricane Irma to contend wind damage when the storm changed course, which dramatically reduced the service response and recovery efforts.

To the question at hand, NJII/NJIT did employ drones to conduct the missions in Houston but would have been more effective and efficient if virtual rehearsals could have been done to identify and help mitigate some of the issues around access, coordination and communication. We could have tested putting the UAVs in partnership with unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), which I maintain are marsupials that can be equipped with tethered drones to help “extend” the communication’s zone, providing video management and data storage capabilities.

The equipment could be prepositioned (staged) or transported to the sites as part of the response and recovery effort. Interoperability of other communication modalities would also be enabled using a robot as a repeater with a secure network to make excellent use of existing bandwidth, residing on both the ground robot and the tethered drone.

All of these applications enhance operations in the areas of security, safety and risk mitigation. Germaine to all of the technology that could be deployed is the proper prior planning process to make sure we prepare ahead of time, exercise the personnel and equipment, and conduct follow-ups to correct and reinforce behaviors for “best practices” that can serve as security standards. Keeping in mind plans are only as good as the folks who execute them. Everything I’ve mentioned here is focused on reducing risk, minimizing losses and saving lives. 

Jay StackJay Stack
IGM Creative Group
Founder & President

The ability and strength of security robots are enabling organizations to become operationally efficient and effective. Adoption of innovative technologies by the security industry is resulting in producing highly capable robots conducting simple as well as complex tasks. Security robots, therefore coupled with human strategic direction, are accomplishing tasks faster. With deteriorating safety and security protocols globally, there is room for improvement to restructure and reform processes to become foolproof or at least more effective than before.

Security robots should be used for surveillance purposes by public institutions, such as museums, hospitals, educational and religious buildings, that attract huge crowds of people and are required to vet the masses for entry. Using robots in the screening process will minimize performance variations and provide assurance to management and the public.

Research suggests that CCTV cameras installed around cities have not prevented disasters, as they are not considered enough of a deterrent. Extrapolating from this, the use of robots to verify identity and profile individuals will be more substantial to alert authorities in case a red flag is identified.

Physical donations in the wake of a disaster are huge. Relief organizations can use robots for aid distribution making the process more safe and secure. Additionally, robots can be used for surveillance during the sorting and labeling of items donated to relief centers before they are shipped out to the benefactors.

It is clear that the positive attributes of security and robotics.  When deployed together in the future, we can better predict, prevent, reduce losses or respond to emergency situations. 

John Wickes
Wickes Arborists
Owner & Certified Arborist

With global warming on the rise, natural disasters have become more commonplace. Technology exists to predict the onset of hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes etc., but the actual damage can only be assessed once the worst is over.

Government entities globally, have designated departments to manage, mitigate and address disaster zones. However, they are not necessarily equipped with enough resources to address the havoc on their own. That’s where locally based private arborists and disaster management companies come in.

They are technologically more advanced, have better knowledge of local topography and can reach areas faster. Drones, aerial and land-based, help scan areas to assess the damage.  Robotics are used to cut trees more conveniently. Leading-edge machinery is used to drain water faster from fields. The combination of advanced technology and competent management can restore disaster areas in a piecemeal manner faster.

Ramesh RatanRamesh Ratan
Bell &Howell
CEO & Board of Director Member

The disasters of this last year, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires, showed us the incredible value of advanced robotics technology, such as airborne drones in assessing and responding to rescue and recovery situations.  Moreover, they also showed us the irreplaceable value in the combination of humans and robots, such as the need for human engagement to prevent mid-air collisions between drones and rescue helicopters. In the true keeping of the principles of the Internet of People and Things (IoPT), the first responders augmented with remote presence and sensing systems proved incredibly valuable in improving our ability to save lives in disasters. 

Eric MorseEric Morse, CPP
Senior Security Manager 

“Best in class” security management is about staying ahead of recurring trends, learning from past incidents and having a mindset of continual improvement.  It cannot just be about responding and doing our best every time we need to fight a fire (literally and figuratively).  We as security professionals need to embrace change and utilize technology as a force multiplier to increase our ability to succeed within an ever-changing, and sometimes more unpredictable and violent environment.

Technology, such as robotics, is available now and is becoming a step changer in how we manage our operation and resources. We have the ability to be the first generation to do so successfully — to augment our professional security operation with tools that make our programs more resilient, more sustainable, better for the environment, and enhance our ability to protect our people, property and products.

To take a lesson from Nature, nothing stays the same for long. There are two paths, growth and decay. Robotics is a natural evolution in the security industry, which fosters growth and an abundance of opportunity. 

Claudine HudsonClaudine Hudson
Shuttle Computer Group
Solutions Account Manager

It is quite unfortunate that we have experienced so many natural disasters nationally and globally over the last few months; however, these events have prompted businesses to be more proactive in their disaster recovery/business continuity solutions. Organizations should ensure that there are redundancy systems in place, so if one location is down because of a hurricane or fire, then the other locations can still be active and flawlessly continue the operations of the business.

Companies should work to have an efficient backup system with automatic mirroring technology. It is always great to have some type of trusted platform module (TMP) on the hardware for increased security, which will also protect your organization from hacking and other threats. These backup systems are usually located in a data center or network operation center (NOC).

When selecting a data center, companies should always explore the secondary power sources in place, in the event of a power outage (e.g. solar energy or additional generators or batteries). Customers should try to select a data center located in an area with limited natural disasters, such as flooding, tornadoes or snowstorms.

As terror attacks are becoming more prevalent, security robotics is definitely a solution to this gruesome epidemic. We can use security robotics to extend the defense methods by using robots to detonate bombs and capture terrorists instead of endangering members of the security forces.

John NagyJohn Nagy
Nagy-Heller Solutions

As we continue to work together with technology and solution development involving first responders at the government and private levels, a close look at just how robotics can complement our first responder force is perhaps overdue.

Most emergency responses to natural disasters and acts of terror are during or after the occurrence. While mass evacuations and often hysteria is happening, first responders and security are expected to be “going in.” Let’s look at ways of also protecting those who protect us. A “first responder force multiplier” needs to be considered.

Robotic technology should be considered as an additional deployment to assist first responders who are often the first medically trained professionals to arrive on the scene of emergencies and accidents. The deployment of robotic technology can clear a scene and determine the level of hazard to our first responders, and even be used to secure a crime scene should a late arrival of emergency personnel occur. Robotics with sensor technology for hazardous waste spill detection can be an additional use of this technology at large facilities or remote locations.

We are reminded that our first responders are individuals who protect life, evidence, property or the environment during the early stages of an emergency.  Consider robotic technology to possibly assist with scene surveys, communication, hazardous material detection and even transportation of emergency equipment and supplies. Robotics could be deployed in cases of active shooters.

Given their capabilities to safeguard those who protect us, eventually robotics can and will be deployed to assist our nation’s first responder force.  Security robots will be credited with restoring public order and confidence during and after natural disasters and acts of terror.

Nathan RuffNathan Ruff
Coalition of UAS Professionals
Managing Director 

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma represented a turning point for unmanned aerial robotics (drones).  From restoring electricity to assisting with search and rescue efforts, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) played a key role providing reconnaissance for disaster-stricken areas.  Florida Power and Light leveraged 49 drone teams to survey parts of the state still not accessible by vehicles in order to get electricity back on for its 4.4 million customers.

Search and rescue teams worked hand-in-hand with remote pilots to save lives and gather information, and several media outlets flew drones in the aftermath of the hurricanes to provide real-time video to local residents and the world about flooding and damage in the area.

The FAA’s ability to quickly authorize unmanned aircraft operations during Irma and Harvey was essential, and exceptionally well executed.  During Hurricane Harvey, the FAA fast-tracked 140 emergency authorizations to operate drones in the national airspace; that number grew to over 176 for Irma and were often granted in less than 60 minutes.

Considering that most local airports were either closed or dedicated to emergency relief flights, UAS response filled an important void.  In addition, battery operated drones didn’t deplete precious aviation fuel in order to provide pictures from above.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta summed up the UAS effort succinctly, “Essentially, every drone that flew meant that a traditional aircraft was not putting an additional strain on an already fragile system. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.”

Leveraging drones as a force-multiplier for overtaxed public safety organizations will be the new standard operating procedure for the future.

Todd RigbyTodd Rigby
Director of Sales

In all likelihood, secure UAVs and UGVs will expand in their capabilities to support disaster and emergency response requirements. Not surprisingly, UAVs will be used during emergencies for many of the same reasons they are being used in industrial and commercial applications today.

Their abilities to launch on alert or deploy in an environment to assess damages to a large coverage area that would otherwise represent additional risks if attempted by humans are just two of the many factors that make secure UAV technology optimal for disaster response.

Many configurations could be useful, be it a tethered drone powered by a ground generator or from a truck, or an UGV or robo-boat equipped with reserve power. Besides food and shelter, reliable communications are most critical to preserve life and safety.

Swarm drones have been successfully launched that would be able to drop off small packages with critical medical supplies and packaged goods until further assistance could be provided.

To learn more about security applications for robots and drones, visit Robolliance Expert Corner.

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