Robot Lifeguards Help Save Refugees In Greece
On a single day last fall, 85 boats made it to Lesvos, Greece filled with refugees. At any given moment, as many as six boats approached the shore, each filled with as many as 50 people—and each boat or raft rickety enough that it could capsize or stall at any moment.
Even after harsher winter weather began, people have continued to come at record rates. In the first few weeks of January, nearly 37,000 refugees and migrants came to Greece and Italy. Local lifeguards are overwhelmed. But now they’re starting to test something new: A robotic lifeguard that can swim out to help someone who falls in the water when a human lifeguard is still on shore.
“You’ve got the [lifeguards] in the control boat and the ones on the shore—and you’ve got that gap in between,” says Robin Murphy, who leads the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University, and who went to Greece during the school’s winter break to help test the robo-lifeguard out.