This SBIR project seeks to develop a multi-robot system capable of autonomously deploying and maintaining a portable and temporary communication infrastructure to provide coverage for emergency responders at the scene of an incident. Ability to effectively communicate is extremely important for emergency responders because of the need to be able to effectively transfer voice, video, and data for effective incident management. The problem with most communication technologies is that they require the use of a communication infrastructure to function properly. This poses a challenge to emergency responders trying to use communication capabilities because deploying a communication infrastructure a priori, or during emergency response is impractical for various reasons including cost, deployment time, and lack of manpower at a scene. This project proposes to deploy a portable and temporary communication infrastructure at an emergency scene using a group of robots that work in concert to set up network access points to provide coverage to all emergency responders at a scene. This system will be capable of moving around the scene to ensure that each responder has access to a communication link at all times. Therefore, the proposed system will enhance the communication capabilities of emergency responders by deploying a temporary communication infrastructure with minimal human participation, which will enhance communication and emergency responder localization and tracking at a complicated emergency scene. The development of this system will pose communications, robotic control, and sensing challenges, and KandA Wireless has put together the expertise and experience to develop this project to success by solving these challenges. Phase I effort will focus on: 1) Obtaining and testing a proof of concept prototype of the robot used to deploy the temporary network infrastructure 2) Designing a multi-robot control algorithm for infrastructure set-up 3) Developing a block diagram for a fully operational system that considers operational aspects of an emergency scene. The information obtained during this Phase I effort will determine the feasibility of the proposed approach. Moreover, the results obtained in Phase I will provide the foundation for the development of the system planned for Phase II. Phase II will focus on the full development of the system and on the evaluation of the proposed system using actual robots and emergency responders. KandA Wireless expects to deliver by the end of this SBIR effort a working system with demonstrated impact on emergency responder communications.
Relevance Communication capabilities are extremely important for first responders because they need to transfer a wide range of information for situational awareness and safety purposes [1 - 5]. The problem with most communication technologies is that they require the use of a communication infrastructure, which is impractical to deploy by conventional means. This motivates KandA Wireless to propose a multi-robot system to autonomously deploy and maintain a communication infrastructure at an emergency scene so that coverage can be guaranteed to all emergency responders at the scene without extensive human involvement.