Robotics and automation are pivotal technologies to increase productivity and efficiency to prevent, prepare, and/or respond to natural and human-made disasters. Demographic change and lifestyle changes can build up pressure, especially on volunteer-based first responder organizations, which need long training to be mission ready. First responders supported by robotics will be able to fulfil more work in a shorter amount of time and with less personnel. Within this industry, cheaper, more capable, and more flexible technologies are accelerating the growth of fully automated production facilities. This innovation needs to be brought also into saving lives. Fundamental changes (procedures, tactics and strategies) in the civil protection traditional way of working are necessary. Robotic systems with and without autonomous functionalities are not completely new in disaster relief, but still, there is no continuous and decisive step towards bringing this innovation into the first responders’ daily work. 

Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:

  • Broad acceptance of autonomous systems by first responders and affected people in civil protection;
  • Higher safety and security standards for operational forces working in hazardous environments;
  • Get ahead of future shortcomings of trained first responder personnel by increasing first responder efficiency (less personnel do more work in shorter time);
  • Increased ability to conduct on-scene operations remotely without endangering first responders;
  • European robotics industry is strengthened through engagement in the civil protection research as well as an economic and political advantage through building up know-how for innovative technologies;
  • Reduction of false positive readouts from various sensors carried by robots

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Enhanced exploitation of the latest scientific results (e.g., from research programmes and institutions) and integrated technologies (e.g. Earth observation, in situ data collection, advanced modelling, AI) into enhanced understanding of high-impact hazards and complex compound and cascade events and improved prevention, preparedness to mitigation, response, and recovery tools;
  • Enhanced understanding and improved knowledge and situational awareness of disaster-related risks by citizens, empowered to act and consider innovative solutions, thus raising the resilience of European society;
  • More efficient cross-sectoral, cross-disciplines (including SSH), cross-border coordination of the disaster risk management cycle and governance (from scientific research to prevention, preparedness to mitigation, response, and recovery, including knowledge transfer and awareness of innovative solutions) from international to local levels;
  • Enhanced collaboration, interactions and cross-discipline dialogue and networking between the scientific community, research institutions and programmes (e.g., HE, ESA scientific activities, national science programmes, FutureEarth RIS-KAN) and first and second responders through dedicated networking and collaboration actions fostering a faster transfer of results from science into practice;
  • Support of harmonised and/or standardised and interoperability of guidelines / protocols / tools / technologies in the area of crisis management, natural disasters and CBRN-E;
  • Strengthened capacities of first responders in all operational phases related to any kind of natural and human-made disasters so that they can better prepare their operations, have access to enhanced situational awareness, have means to respond to events in a faster, safer and more efficient way, and may more effectively proceed with victim identification, triage and care;
  • Improved impact forecasting capability and scenario building for enhanced stress testing of critical entities and adaption of protection and resilience-enhancing activity accordingly;
  • Improved ability to rescue and manage the first phases of emergencies that take into account extreme climatic events and/or geological hazards that may threaten urban areas (e.g. interface fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruption etc.).

In summary, the scope of this topic is not only to develop new robotic solutions for specific tasks but addresses also more holistically the surrounding environment and factors that impact civil protection on a larger scale (urbanisation, ageing, climate change, increased complexity in the area of critical infrastructure protection etc.). There are many research and engineering challenges that need to be addressed in the framework of this topic. First responders play a vital role in ensuring that the robotics solutions are based on the needs and are valuable assets for the civil protection ecosystem.

Moreover, this topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research/innovation activities.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged.

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 6-8 by the end of the project.

Deadline date is 23rd November 2023, 17:00:00 Brussels time.