How robots and Verizon 5G can help with disaster response, search and rescue

By: Chris Ashraf

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When disaster strikes, whether it’s an earthquake, wildfire or hurricane, assessing the situation and quickly getting first responders to the scene is critical. What happens when people are trapped in areas that are too dangerous for first responders to access?

That’s where 5G and robots come in.

At our Verizon 5G Lab in Cambridge, Mass., a research team from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell recently demonstrated how a miniature humanoid robot can be remotely controlled in near real-time and automatically compute and adjust its gait to stay upright while navigating obstacles. The robot’s “eyes” sent video data to the human operator who was able to respond almost instantly to adjust its step and stride as it climbed and descended a set a stairs.

So how does 5G help? 5G’s high speeds and low latency enable near “real-time” data transmission for the remote control of the robot and fast re-planning of the robot’s movements.

“The communication rate is crucial because you could have debris falling and dangerous obstacles like fire and the robot needs to react quickly in hazardous environments,” said Yan Gu, assistant professor at UMass Lowell. “That’s where 5G’s high speeds, low latency and large bandwidth are critical, helping human operators to essentially immediately see what the robot’s seeing and send it commands. We’re hoping that combining our technology with 5G can one day save lives.”

Not only could this type of robot possibly spot people trapped in places drones might not see from above, it could also be used to bring food, water and other supplies to those in need until it’s safe for first responders to access the area.

The UMass research team was among the seven winners of the recent Verizon 5G Robotics Challenge. The challenge asked universities, startups, and other developers in the greater Boston area to create 5G-powered robotics technologies that could transform modern industry. The winners received grant funding and were given access to Verizon’s 5G to lab to test their concepts on a live 5G network. 

We’re currently working to narrow down the finalists of the Verizon Built on 5G Challenge

Stay tuned for more on the race toward the big prize and learn more about Verizon’s 5G technology.

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About the author:

Chris Ashraf is an external communications manager at Verizon writing about 5G and network solutions.

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