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New DARPA Challenge looking for robots to respond to Fukushima-like disasters

DARPA has issued a robotics challenge to create new robots that could navigate a disaster area to help with evacuation or safety procedures.

DARPA Robotics
DARPA Robotics

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is no stranger to crowdsourced or public projects, and now it's put out a call for robots that can navigate disaster areas to help with humanitarian efforts. The DARPA Robotics Challenge asks teams of designers to create "revolutionary" robots that can work with common vehicles and machines and can pass a series of tests, including navigating a debris-strewn track, removing rubble from a door, and closing a valve by a leaking pipe. Eligible teams will receive funding for their projects, and the winner will receive a $2 million prize as well.

Although the proposed robots could be used for any number of terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, or natural disasters, DARPA says the Fukushima nuclear tragedy was a prime example of the kind of situation it hopes the robots can address. Like this Cyberdyne suit, the robots could enter dangerous areas with large amounts of interference and help evacuate them or prevent further damage without putting humans at risk. Proposals are due May 31st, and a full description of the program can be found at Federal Business Opportunities.