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<i>New York Times</i> - Flexible and Fearless, Seeking Rescue Work

6/25/2007 12:00 AM

COLLEGE STATION, Tex., June 21 — It was another perfect day in Disaster City.

Satoshi Tadokoro operates the Active Scope Camera, an optic robot that inches along like a snake.

Two trains, carrying passengers and dangerous chemicals, were jackknifed. An office tower and parking garage had pancaked. And black smoke rose in the distance.

But Eyeball, Dragon Runner, ToughBot, Marv, Matilda and Talon were unfazed.

Robots all, they and their fearless, expendable ilk crawled, rolled or hovered over the carnage for several days at a training center here affiliated with Texas A&M University, transmitting images, sniffing for poisons and hauling out dummies in an exercise to grade robots in rescue work.

“I call it a great playground,” said Thomas Meyer of Germany as he sent his company’s AirRobot, an airy wire ring housing a motorized camera and four buzzing rotors, in search of “survivors.” “But it’s a serious situation because people have to deal with the reality.”

The military is already using some of the robots in Iraq to spy out insurgent ambushes and to detect and remove explosive devices.

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