Dr Robin Murphy, a professor of computer science and engineering,and Lt Col John Blitch have played an important role in the use of robots for search and rescue, a subject that has been discussed in scientific literature since the early 1980s. However, the first real research began immediately after the Oklahoma City
(OKC) bombing in 1995.
Dr Robin Murphy was then an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Mines and one of her graduate students, Major John Blitch of the US Army, participated in the response to the OKC, taking notes as to how robots might have been applied. This
led to the development of an expert system for determining which existing robots are useful for which situations — Blitch’s MS thesis — and to the exploration of the marsupial (mother-daughter) class of robots as a solution to several platform deficiencies.
Dr Robin Murphy created a cache of small, fieldable robot platforms to be used in the event of a real disaster. She also devised an experimental platform, which was based on a children’s batterypowered jeep. The work carried out by Blitch provided some of the motivation for the DARPA Tactical Mobile Robot (TMR) programme,
which produced prototype small robots for military operations in urban terrains.
In 1998, Murphy moved to the University of South Florida, where her work changed to directing field studies with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue in Tampa, Florida. Dr Murphy and some graduate students became part of Florida Task Force 3. The work
produced fundamental enabling research, assessing platform needs and producing a preliminary model of how the search task could be conducted with robots, setting the requirements for them.
The artificial intelligence community began to take interest in rescue robots as a challenging and worthy application area. By the summer of 2000, the American Association for Artificial Intelligence had held the first Rescue Robot competition event intended to attract researchers into search and rescue, and in 2001, the
RoboCup competition expanded to include a rescue robot league.
On September 1st of that same year, Lt Colonel Blitch chartered the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) of the University of South Florida (USF) and became the first director.