German Scientists Invent Robot Lifesaver

March 2021

A research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Ilmenau – together with the water rescue services of the city of Halle – have developed an autonomous underwater vehicle that can save people from drowning. The aquatic robot is the first of its kind in the world.

“There are typical postures that you can use to recognize when someone is in danger,” said Fraunhofer IOSB computer scientist and project leader Helge Renkewitz on the institute’s website.

The robot was tested out at a local lake, where it was able to pick up an 80-kilo dummy, secure it and bring it back to “safety” on shore.

“The full rescue operation lasted just over two minutes,” said Renkewitz. “Casualties must be resuscitated within five minutes to avoid long-term brain damage. We were able to stay within this critical time frame without any problems.”

Developers say they are working on modifications, based on the streamlined body shape of manta rays to make the robot smaller and later. They hope it will eventually be used for a wide variety of applications including underwater inspecting, monitoring and searching.

The aquatic robot transports the dummy to shore via the shortest route. © Fraunhofer IOSB-AST