ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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SDOs Called on to Participate in Development of Urban Search and Rescue Robotics Standards

New York, Apr 08, 2005

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security held the largest terrorism drill ever conducted in the United States on April 4, 2005, in New Jersey and Connecticut. The drill put emergency responders to the test with mock-terrorist events including a chemical attack, release of a biological agent and a car bombing. In this latter drill, investigators used a bomb-squad robot with a mounted video camera to peer inside the suspicious vehicle from a safe distance before it exploded. Law enforcement agencies have been using similar robots for many years for bomb disposal as well as Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) efforts after such events as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. A federal agency is leading the effort to generate high level USAR robot performance standards and is calling for the participation of U.S. standards developing organizations.

In partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate has initiated the effort to develop comprehensive standards related to the development, testing, and certification of effective technologies for USAR robotics. NIST will host a workshop on April 29, 2005, at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, MD, targeted exclusively to standards development organizations and will brief attendees on the overall vision for the program, while giving SDOs an opportunity to discuss their particular organization's perspective on this area of work.

The NIST Intelligent Systems Division has been charged by DHS to lead this effort, in close collaboration with the American National Standards Institute’s Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP), the NIST Standards Services Division, and NIST Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES). NIST has completed the initial step, which was the generation of high level robot performance requirements based on emergency responder input.

The USAR robotic performance standards will cover sensing, mobility, navigation, planning, integration, and operator control to ensure that the robots can meet operational requirements under the extreme conditions often faced by rescuers. The standards will also address issues of robotic component interoperability to reduce costs.

The USAR robotic standards effort focuses on fostering collaboration between first responders, robot vendors, and technology developers to advance consensus standards for task-specific robot capabilities and interoperability of components. These standards will allow DHS to provide guidance to local, state, and federal homeland security entities regarding the purchase, deployment and use of USAR robotic systems.

SDOs interested in sending a representative to the April 26 workshop should send an email to by April 26th. For security purposes, NIST must register all visitors in advance.

While the April 26 meeting is exclusive to standards developing organizations, DHS and NIST will also host a Public Forum on Urban Search and Rescue Robot Performance Standards on May 13, 2005, at the NIST campus. The forum will allow interested parties to learn more about the overall program vision, timelines, and current status from DHS and NIST representatives. Attendees will have the opportunity to provide input on availability and viability of technology solutions to address the performance requirements for USAR robots. To register for the May 13 forum, click here.

For more information, visit NIST's Intelligent Systems Division research area on USAR.

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