Soldiers and first responders may soon have a better way to evaluate the interior of dangerous structures, thanks to a joint project between Missouri S&T and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
As part of the project, which began in 2008, students at Missouri S&T built a remote-controlled robot equipped with an infrared camera and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology. Like radar, LIDAR sends out signals, in this case millions of laser points, to bounce off objects and provide feedback. The LIDAR-equipped robot then wirelessly relays detailed images to a laptop computer.
“We can get a 3-D map of rooms by sending the robot inside or having it look through a window,” says Norbert Maerz, associate professor of geological engineering at Missouri S&T. “Even when you can’t see through windows, you can still scan through them with LIDAR. Using this information, soldiers or first responders could evaluate safety issues and determine strategies.”
Maerz and his students have used their prototype to map the inside of houses, businesses, Missouri S&T buildings, chambers in S&T’s Experimental Mine and cave passages in the Mark Twain National Forest. “In theory, you could deploy this technology inside caves where terrorists might be hiding,” Maerz says.