Special Issue on “What can We do for Developing Search and Rescue Robot?”
As a disaster-prone country, Japan has endured many earthquake disasters. The latest cases include the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake disaster, the 2004 Niigata Chuetsu earthquake, and the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake. Since the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in particular, many robot researchers have started undertaking the research and development of rescue robots. Their practical applications have a long way to go, so to continue ongoing robot research and development, we should also be aware that comparatively few researchers and engineers are actually engaged in such research and development. Great earthquakes (or tsunami) are both rare and unpredictable, which makes it very difficult to establish research policies for rescue robots intended for specialized use in disaster response. We should also realize that Japan is almost constantly hit by one or another every year – e.g., the typhoons that hit Japan directly every year and themselves triggering other disasters caused by landslides or avalanches due to heavy rainfall. The Japanese populace is so accustomed to such happenings but, nevertheless, few actions have been taken unlike those against large-scale earthquakes. It is often said that an effective disaster response system can only be developed after we have experienced many actual disasters. It then occurs to us that we must first construct disaster response systems – rescue robots, etc. – directly targeting daily natural disasters. Any large-scale disaster response system can be built on such constant efforts. On the other hand, any disaster response system against daily natural disasters could only be developed by locally domiciled researchers and engineers. This makes us feel that it is possible to increase the number of personnel who become involved in disaster response research and development. Based on the above context, this special issue provides a wide range of articles on region-specific disasters and disaster response actions, focusing on their localities and specialties. We sincerely hope that this special issue will help in promoting research and development on rescue robots and putting them to practical use.