Robo-doc to perform weightless surgery

Telerobotic surgery performed in zero-gravity environment holds promise for medicine in space and on the battlefield.

Mark Rutherford
The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.
Mark Rutherford
2 min read

Don't book just yet--soon you'll be able to take a space cruise and get a face lift at the same time.

This month, researchers from SRI International and the University of Cincinnati will conduct the first-ever robotic surgery in simulated zero-gravity aboard a NASA C-9 aircraft flying 34,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, it was announced yesterday.

SRI International

The C-9, aka the "Weightless Wonder," will simulate the microgravity of space and variable gravity of military critical care air transports by performing 40 parabolas per flight, each 18 to 25 seconds long.

The experiment will compare the precision and speed with which both human and robot surgeons can cut and stitch an incision, among other things. The SRI-developed software will help robo-doc compensate for the "errors in movement" that could be expected whether flying through space or over a battlefield in a medivac flight.

The SRI telerobotics allow the robot surgery to be controlled from thousands of miles away. When perfected, this system would allow patient care to begin the minute they close the ambulance door, according to Silicon Valley-based SRI.

"In remote telesurgery, a surgeon controls a multi-armed robot located at the patient's bedside from a distant location using a telecommunications network," SRI's Thomas Low said. "This has the potential to provide emergency medical and surgical care to astronauts during space flights, soldiers injured in battle and patients living in remote regions on Earth where there are no physicians."

SRI has already demonstrated its remote robotic surgery capabilities as part of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations on the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, 60 feet below and off the coast of Key Largo.