Robots can be used to fight Ebola in Africa


This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)


How does the United States allow health workers to help West Africa while minimizing their risk? One answer that the White House may be exploring is robots.
On Nov. 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will convene a workshop to explore ways to keep health workers in Africa safe through robotics.
Robin Murphy, the director of CRASAR (Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue) specifies some of the jobs robots in the Ebola zone might be assigned. The following points provide a fair indication of what we might soon be asking robots to do in West Africa. Also included, some of the systems that are fulfilling similar roles today, but not necessarily in places like Liberia.

  • Mortuary robots to respectfully transport the deceased, as Ebola is most virulent at the time of death and immediately following death.
  • Reducing the number of health professionals within the biosafety labs and field hospitals” – e.g., automated materials handling.

Unmanned systems conference 2014 – Israel

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  • Detection of contamination – does this hospital room, ambulance or house have Ebola?
  • Disinfection – robots that can open the drawers and doors for the commercially available ‘Little Moe’ disinfectant robot.

  • Telepresence robots for experts to consult/advise on medical issues, train and supervise worker decontamination to catch accidental self-contamination, and serve as ‘rolling interpreters’ for the different languages and dialects. Robots with autonomous navigation built in could be useful for navigating an unfamiliar hospital setting under difficult conditions.
  • Physical security for the workers.
  • Waste handling.
  • Humanitarian relief.Reconnaissance – e.g., what’s happening in this village? Any signs of illness?