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

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.
Emerging Tech

Toilet-scrubbing robot takes over one of the world’s crappiest jobs

When it comes to jobs that none of us enjoy, scrubbing the toilet would have to rank pretty highly. So why not hand the job over to robots? Very soon you might be able to do exactly that.