Pakistan to use Intelligent Mobile Robots for disaster mitigation, firefighting

IMRs built in-house will be available to local industries, hospitals and offices after a year

Islamabad: The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MoITT) is in the process of developing Intelligent Mobile Robots (IMR) to help in disaster mitigation and firefighting work.

Efforts have been made to equip the mobile robots with all modern sensing and communication devices, with on-board computational capabilities.

A senior manager at Ignite, a department of MoITT on Sunday said the Intelligent Mobile Robots (IMRs) have features including fire detection and extuinguishing capabilities, object detection, target tracking, collision avoidance, group formation movement, and autonomous and manual control.

“Now, we are working on remote-controlled, heavy-duty robots (Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Observation Robot) which would provide enhanced bomb disposal capabilities to EOD teams,” the manager said.

MoITT is funding the project through the National ICT Research and Development Fund (Ignite) and the principal investigator organisation is PAF Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology. The cost of this ongoing project is Pakistani rupees 14.68 million (Dh401,898).

The official, while seeking more funds for the advanced level robot, said the cost of a locally manufactured robot would be around Rs4 million, while the cost of imported robot is around $0.4 million (Dh1.46 million). The IMRs, with all of the state-of-the-art technologies built into it, are very costly. Small scale IMRs are available in the market, but all of them have manual control which is difficult to manage and even experienced personnel cannot guarantee a successful mission.

Giving further details, the official said the IMRs have been built in-house and would be available for local industries, hospitals and offices after one year, after all tests were completed.

IMRs will be able to execute a mission (e.g. object detection in a complex terrain, surveying, trajectory following etc) by incorporating intelligent techniques and robust control algorithms.

Coming to the rescue

Pakistan experience a high frequency of accidents disasters, of multiple natures and magnitudes. These include industrial fires, terrorism, floods and earthquakes.

The country’s industrial sector is huge, with a number of units in cement manufacturing, dyeing, steel, glass, paints and many others in which heavy machinery is utilised.

Due to the ad hoc nature of its industrial setup and the absence of stringent rules and regulations governing the installation and commissioning of boilers, heaters and many other electro-mechanical equipment, accidents are frequent. In most cases, the accidents lead to fire, and the firefighting departments of most cities are unable to provide adequate support. Quick and effective rescue operations aren’t guaranteed with the available systems.

Therefore, the scope of the MoITT project is to develop a group of intelligent cooperative firefighting and disaster mitigation mobile robots, which can perform critical operations in adverse circumstances and hazardous environments.

The developed mobile robots can be included as a workforce in the firefighting department. IMRs are extensively used nowadays for many applications, the Ignite official said, adding that they can be effectively utilised in life-threatening missions as well as in harsh weather for surveillance, tracking, rescue operations and map generation.

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