The DRZ operational team equipment.
20 Dec 2023

Journal Article on Lessons from Robot Deployments by the German Rescue Robotics Center Task Force


The DRZ operational team.The German Rescue Robotics Center (DRZ) recently had an article published in the Journal of Field Robotics. It analyzes the experiences from the deployments of UAVs and UGVs done by the DRZ Robotics Task Force, where the ground and aerial robots were used to explore partially destroyed buildings.





The deployments discussed in the paper are: 


  • Fire cause investigation after an industrial hall fire in Berlin Feb 2021: a UAV with a standard forward and downward facing camera was used for an initial outside overview and for detailed exploration inside the hall; entry and exit through a small opening was assisted by a view from a second UAV positioned above the opening; to capture data from remaining obstructed positions a panoramic camera was suspended on a line from a UAV through the opening; an orthophoto and a georeferenced 3D point cloud model of the hall were created using the photogrammetry software WebODM after landing.


  • Situation overview during flooding in Erftstadt Jul 2021: a UAV was used to get live and overview images of the area and to record the extent of flooding and the water flow direction;  UAVs were used for meander flights to collect images for creating a georeferenced orthophoto and 3D point cloud model using WebODM, as well as 360o panoramas; a small UAV was used to inspect destroyed buildings and vehicles; 3D model and elevation profiles from subsequent flights were used to determine water runoff; a UGV was summoned to the site but not deployed in the end.


  • Fire cause investigation after a residential complex fire in Essen Feb 2022: a small UAV was used for an initial outside overview and a 3D model and subsequently to explore heavily damaged parts of the building, especially on the upper floors; a tracked UGV was used to collect images for a 3D model of several flats; a UAV was used to provide an external view on the robot operation from outside of the building for safety.


Detailed descriptions of the mission situation, tasks, execution and lessons learnt are available in the paper. 


Paper titleLessons from robot‐assisted disaster response deployments by the German Rescue Robotics Center task force : LINK to download the research paper


The DRZ operational team.AbstractEarthquakes, fire, and floods often cause structural collapses of buildings. However, the inspection of such damaged buildings poses a high risk for emergency forces or is even impossible. We present three recently selected missions of the Robotics Task Force of the German Rescue Robotics Center (DRZ), where both ground and aerial robots were used to explore destroyed buildings. 

We describe and reflect the missions as well as the lessons learned that have resulted from them. 

To make robots from research laboratories fit for real operations, realistic outdoor and indoor test environments were set up at the DRZ and used for tests in regular exercises by researchers and emergency forces. 

Based on this experience, the robots and their control software were significantly improved. Furthermore, expert teams of researchers and first responders were formed, each with realistic assessments of the operational and practical suitability of robotic systems.


Key Insight: Our journey from research laboratories to real-life operations involves dedicated testing, learning, and collaboration. The DRZ Robotics Task Force is based on long-term collaboration between researchers and first responders. 

Testing cutting-edge robotics technology in joint exercises and real deployments enables researchers to better understand first responders’ needs and operational conditions and identify appropriate research priorities. 

First responders, in turn, gain deeper awareness of the advanced technologies, assess their functionalities, and learn to employ them in missions. Together, they identify future potential benefits. 


This article was prepared by Ivana Kruijff (DRZ)

The article is also part of the project "Sharing Practical Experiences with Using Robots in Fire & Rescue” of the CTIF Commission for Extrication and New Technologies in collaboration with the German Rescue Robotics Center.