Soldiers experiment with new technology geared to help first responders in crisis response

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Saving the most lives as fast as possible during a crisis is the biggest priority for search and rescue teams.

"That's the name of the game," said 1st Lt. Davion Thomas, Battle Captain of the Search and Instruction Team. "Try to do it as fast and as safe as possible."

So, soldiers are experimenting with different technologies to answer a specific question.

"How can I gain an accurate picture of what's going on in an affected area without necessarily putting my team at risk," said Major Andrew Hanson of the Weapons of Mass Destruction - Civil Support Team.

That tech includes a drone in a box to get an overhead lay of the land, and two different robots - one that can see through 18 inches of concrete and detect breathing and heartbeats, and another that provides 3-D maps of the disaster area to an off-site command center.

"It reduces the amount of time that our responders have down on a hazardous site, and two, it allows us to get a quicker picture of the victims and casualties and what their dispositions are," said Chief Warrant Officer 2, Dan Thomas.

In fact, Dan Thomas says the technology could save a lot of time.

"Easily hours, if not days," Thomas estimated.

This experiment is part of a two-year, $711,000 project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The goal is to see if any of these tools they're experimenting with can be beneficial to local police, fire, and EMS in times of natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes, as well as potential terror attacks.

"We always train for the possibilities," Davion Thomas said. "We would be remiss if we didn't have a plan in place for when things did happen. It's not if, it's when."

If soldiers think this technology could be beneficial, they may as ask for these devices to be developed.

A final report on what this experiment found and how it could potentially help first responders is due within the next three months.