Successful Non-Drone Deployments in HazMat Trainings

Squishy Robotics’ sensor robots were among the innovative public safety solutions included in a Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue (SMFR) HazMat training exercise held in late June. The training exercise, which simulated a HazMat leak from a railroad tanker car, was conducted at a chemical facility in Manatee County, Florida. “It was a great combination of cutting-edge technology and old-school tactics,” said Rich Gatanis, who had a leading role in planning and coordinating the training exercise. Auterion’s Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) “Vector” and FLYMOTION’s Trident series van were also part of the HazMat exercise.

The SMFR training exercise employed and operated the sensor robots in non-drone deployments in which HazMat teams hand deployed the robots on the opposite sides of the railcar as team members entered the scene.

Non-drone deployments—tossing, throwing, or hand placing the sensor robots—can be advantageous for first responder teams with or without Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) programs.

All the properties of the tensegrity structure, such as impact resistance and durability, that enable air deployments and drops from high altitudes also protect the sensor robots when they are thrown or manually dropped down something like a mine shaft. The SMFR training exercise proved how well suited the robots are for such manual deployments. “In addition to drone deployment, manual deployment of the Squishy Robotics’ multi-gas sensors is a practical alternative method to quickly position sensors throughout a scene to monitor the air remotely in a variety of responses,” Gatanis explained. “In this scenario, because of the hot zone’s close proximity to our HazMat team, manual deployment made the most sense. Had this been a scene where the leak was a long distance away, deployment via UAS would have been the preferred deployment method.”

“That’s the benefit of a sensor robot like this,” Gatanis added. “Its flexibility and deployability make these sensors invaluable to a HazMat team.”

Gatanis has several SMFR titles—Firefighter/EMT/HazMat Technician/UAS Coordinator. SMFR and Squishy Robotics began a pilot partnership in June 2020 and Gatanis, in his role as UAS Coordinator, has logged the most hours testing and deploying our sensor robots during the past year. His feedback and suggestions have helped to shape Squishy Robotics hardware and software improvements and to prioritize new features.