Greece is using drones and robotic lifeguards to rescue shipwrecked Syrian refugees

As the Syrian civil war rages on, more and more citizens are displaced by the violence. Every day, refugees stream across the borders of Syria into the neighbouring nations of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. Some even flee into Europe to escape the conflict — but rather than making the journey on foot, many choose to take a shortcut across the Mediterranean Sea and find their way into Greece. It’s a quicker route, but more often than not the boats used to make the trip are rickety and unsafe, and life vests are often in short supply.

More than 4,000 refugees have died at sea since the war broke out, so in an attempt to protect the roughly 2,000 refugees that arrive on the Greek island of Lesvos every day, the local Coast Guard has enlisted the help of a robot named EMILY: the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard.

The Lesvos Coast Guard invited Texas A&M University’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue to develop EMILY as a pilot project. The robot has been used to save stray swimmers in the United States, but it has never been tested as a lifesaving resource on the scale of the European refugee crisis. EMILY itself is basically just a four foot long buoy, controlled remotely by a human operator. The cable that tethers EMILY to a boat or shore outpost can extend up to 2,000 feet, so the operator can guide the robot to migrants lost at sea and then reel them in to safety. EMILY also works in conjunction with an array of Fotokites, which are tethered, camera-equipped quadcopter drones that can feed visuals to the operator from up to 30 feet in the air.

EMILY can run at 20 miles per hour for about 20 minutes on a full charge, which is enough time to make a good number of rescue trips. Once the operator guides EMILY to a refugee at sea, both EMILY and the person holding on are reeled in manually, so no propulsion power is needed. Furthermore, with EMILY on the Coast Guard’s team, human rescue experts and lifeguards can prioritize unconscious victims that wouldn’t be able to actively grab on to the buoy without assistance.

The Texas A&M team, the Lesvos Coast Guard, and more than 80 NGOs working in the region all have high hopes for the divide-and-conquer strategy EMILY has enabled. But even so, there are risks involved with integrated robot rescue, including the danger of EMILY’s 2,000 foot tether getting caught in the propellers of uncoordinated rescue boats. Until now, the Coast Guard has prohibited any rescue groups from launching their own boats without express permission for precisely that reason. However, now that the Lesvos Coast Guard has given official consent to the collaborative robot rescue program with EMILY, it’s possible that the rescue effort will be able to keep refugees safe on the dangerous crossing from countries like Syria.

Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Walmart slashes prices on iRobot Roomba and Shark Ion robot vacuums

Walmart slashed prices of top robot vacuums from iRobot, Shark, Eufy, and Ecovacs just in time for spring cleaning season.  With a robot vacuum on the job you can retire that old upright and let a robot vacuum take over floor-cleaning…
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.