EMILY Robot Lifeguard: It’s time to rethink your notion that comic books and movies are the only places where you can find superheroes with superpowers like invulnerability to bullets and jet propulsion. The significance of EMILY, a remote-controlled robot lifeguard, was recently demonstrated when she saved the lives of over 300 Syrian refugees who were in danger of drowning off the coast of the island of Lesbos in Greece.
“Kevlar and aircraft-grade materials are used in the construction of EMILY, making her nearly indestructible.”
The Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard is a robot that may be tossed out of a helicopter (or from a boat or a bridge) and driven up to a person who is in the water. Its full name is Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard. EMILY has propulsion that is analogous to that of a jet ski, but there are no propeller blades that might potentially cause injury or become entangled. It moves at a speed of a brisk 22 miles per hour. The harsh circumstances are not an issue for EMILY; she can face 30-foot waves, survive collisions with rocks and reefs, and continue moving forward.
According to Tony Mulligan, CEO of the maritime robotics business Hydronalix and the man who invented Emily, EMILY is constructed of Kevlar and aircraft-grade composites, making her nearly indestructible.
Because of the combination of orange, red, and yellow that makes up EMILY, she is quite easy to notice. It is equipped with lights for use in nighttime rescues. Rescue workers are able to communicate with persons who are submerged in water because of a two-way radio system that also includes a video camera. The most apparent application for the robot is as an emergency flotation device that can accommodate up to six people who are suffering in the water. However, the bot can also supply life jackets and can haul a rescue line 800 yards over surf or currents.
There is an interesting backstory to this superhero, as there is with all of them. In the case of Emily, this dates back to a project in 2001 for a drone that was supposed to monitor whales while the Navy was testing sonar. In 2011, components of the first drone were utilized in the production of a new device for monitoring hurricanes and assisting with disaster response. The enigmatic SwampWorks program from the Office of Naval Research provided additional components, which were included.
EMILY is the culmination of a successful partnership between Hydroanalix, the Office of Naval Research, and the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research program. EMILY has been described by Bob Smith of SBIR as “a typical overnight success story that had been in the development for years.”
Emily may be a little on the little side for a superhero, considering that she is only four feet long and weighs twenty-five pounds. However, in contrast to her fictional counterparts, she is currently saving lives in the real world. There are currently more than 260 of her units in service with various organizations, such as coast guards, navies, and others, such as the team from Roboticists Without Borders that took Emily to Greece. What a wonderful accomplishment!
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