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Monday, 7th March 2016
In General Japan News,

Earthquake rescue dogs to be fitted with high-tech equipment

Rescue dogs that are sent into the rubble of collapsed buildings in Japan could soon be fitted with high-tech equipment as standard.

Canines, such as Gonta, who has been trialling the technology, could combine the best of natural and manmade systems to get the job done.

In a drill, Gonta the Brittany spaniel was equipped with a GPS-enabled backpack as he was let loose into a pile of rubble to search for survivors.

Dogs have long been used in the fight against the devastation caused by natural events in this part of the world.

Their incredible sense of smell and better agility than humans makes them better suited to scouring the ruins of buildings.

Gonta himself helped out the emergency services on March 11th 2011 when a magnitude 9 earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan.

He only had his nose to rely on, but that could be about to change, if the technology that has been tested is rolled out to all rescue dogs.

Gonta was fitted with the GPS-enabled device last month (February) in the city of Fujimi and was monitored by Kazunori Ohno, a professor at Tohoku University.

He could do this from the signals being sent back from Gonta’s backpack, which tracked his movements and sent live video footage to a tablet.

One of the major issues that this new project is trying to overcome is the fact that once a dog enters the wreckage of a building, the handler may have no idea where they are.

Mr Ohno said: “A handler can check a video to see where a dog is searching, how it looks inside a building and where survivors are located.”

One important factor is the additional weight of such technology, as it’s vital that rescue dogs are not constricted in their life-saving work.

The devices that were attached to Gonta are so small that the GPS-enabled backpack is just 1.3 kilograms, while the camera weighs 100 grams.

Related news stories:
Seamounts linked to earthquakes (29th August 2008)
False alarm earthquake alert causes panic (4th August 2016)
Earthquake hits north-eastern Japan (1st August 2011)
6.3 earthquakes felt off Japan (18th June 2010)
First cruise ship docks in Kumamoto since earthquakes (7th July 2016)