AFD uses robot to help save people stuck in fast moving water

Robotics Emergency Deployment (RED) TeamEMILY (a personal flotation robot)train to assist our swiftwater rescue crews during flooding events and water rescue calls. (KXAN Photo)
Robotics Emergency Deployment (RED) TeamEMILY (a personal flotation robot)train to assist our swiftwater rescue crews during flooding events and water rescue calls. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department’s Robotics Emergency Deployment Team was at Tom Miller Dam Tuesday afternoon training their newest member: EMILY, a robot whose name stands for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard.

Controlled by a remote control, EMILY swims to the victim and the person latches on to it and gets pulled back by the rescue crews.

AFD’s Assistant Chief Richard Davis said the addition of EMILY lets the department split its team since the machine is more responsive to victims who can grasp onto something.

“With EMILY, she’s more useful as far as victims who are still splashing around,” Davis said. “We can the lifeguards to retrieve unconscious victims.”

Currently, EMILY has lights, a helmet and a life preserver and can swim 22 miles per hour. Davis says the robot is 12 times faster than their other rescuers and can carry five victims at once, which will be key in emergency rescues.

“When it comes to emergency response, timing is everything. The faster we get to the victim, the faster we pull that victim out, the better off that victim will be.”

The department is working on establishing guidelines regarding what EMILY needs to have and what it is capable of.

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