Daniel P. Stormont and Matthew D. Berkemeier
Urban search and rescue is a difficult domain for autonomous mobile robots to operate in. The environment can be expected to be highly unstructured, with many obstacles and hazards for a robot to deal with. In addition, if human rescue teams are going to accept robotic assistance, they need to be assured that the robots are going to be helpful, not a hindrance. With these factors in mind, we have been working toward the development of an autonomous swarm of small, inexpensive search and rescue robots. The robots should be autonomous in order to provide useful information to human rescuers without requiring specialized knowledge in operating robots. A swarm is useful because it allows for losses of individual robots and for redundant communications pathways, without losing overall effectiveness of the swarm. The robots should be small so they will not pose a danger to rescuers or the victims being searched for. And they should be inexpensive because worrying about the loss of robots should not be a consideration for human rescuers. Blue Swarm 2.5 is the latest incarnation in our quest for an autonomous rescue robot swarm. This paper describes our efforts to develop an effective rescue robot swarm. The paper starts by describing the past incarnations of the swarm, including the research objectives being pursued and the results obtained. Then the most recent version of the swarm, Blue Swarm 2.5, is described. Finally, the plans for Blue Swarm 3, the first fully functional rescue swarm, will be described.