New Tech Helps Search-and-Rescue Dogs Find Earthquake Survivors

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Tohoku in Japan, causing a tsunami and meltdowns at three nuclear reactors. Gonta, a Brittany, was one of the dogs sent to search the rubble for survivors.

Now, a researcher is training Gonta with new technology that he hopes will make her job easier. Kazunori Ohno, a professor at Tohoku University, has designed a backpack with GPS technology for search-and-rescue dogs to transmit live video to handlers while looking for survivors in a collapsed building.

"A handler can check a video to see where a dog is searching, how it looks inside a building, and where survivors are located," Ohno said.

The backpack weighs only about three pounds so not to slow dogs like Gonta down while working in dangerous conditions.

Ohno first tried to develop a robot that could do canine-level search and rescue, but was not able to create something with skills as high as that of a dog. Instead, he decided to combine technology with dogs’ natural tracking ability.

See a video of Gonta participating in a training session with the backpack:
 

 

 
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