Rescue operations can greatly benefit from robotics technology. After a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood, it is often very dangerous for teams of rescue workers to go into affected areas to locate victims. The idea behind robots for rescue activities is to create robust robots that can travel into areas too dangerous for humans and rescue dogs. Robots can be used to assess the situation (e.g. the integrity of a building) and to locate people who may be trapped and to relay the location back to the rescue teams, so that all efforts can be concentrated on areas where victims are known to be.
Robots are also being designed to travel faster and cover greater areas than teams of humans can, reducing the time between a natural disaster and discovery of victims. Robots are also being developed to carry items such as medical supplies and food to known victims, thereby focusing resources where need is known to be greatest.
The main research issues within the field of mobile robotics for search and rescue missions centres around durability and usability of robots – how to design robots that are easily transported, can function efficiently in all weather conditions and that have long lasting power, and robots that can navigate themselves and have effective enough sensors to pick out victims.