Keeping travel lanes to Ebola-hit West Africa open is essential to fighting the outbreak, argues Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The U.S. military has already mobilized more than 3,500 troops to the region, and an international assortment of healthcare workers also heads to Africa everyday, where there is a massive doctor shortage.
But amid calls to suspend travel to and from the region, the question is, how does the United States allow health workers to help West Africa while minimizing their risk? One answer that the White House may be exploring is robots.
On Nov. 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy along with researchers from the Texas A & M University’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, CRASAR, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and others will convene a workshop to explore ways to keep health workers in Africa safe through robotics.
But before we can send drones to battle Ebola, we first have to invent the right robots for the job. As Evan Ackerman makes clear in this post for IEEE Spectrum, “the problem that we’re having now with Ebola is the same as the problem that we had with Fukushima: there simply aren’t any robots that are prepared and ready, right now, to tackle an immediate crisis, even though robots would be immensely valuable in this situation.”