SRI to build robotic surgeon

SRI International Inc. won a two-year, $12 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an automated medical treatment system that does not require onsite medical personnel, the company said today.

The system will be used on the battlefield, SRI said.

The unmanned medical treatment systems, known as trauma pods, will be used to stabilize the condition of soldiers within minutes after they sustain a trauma and administer life-saving medical and surgical care before evacuating them and during their transport.

During the program's first phase, SRI and a team of contractors will develop robotic technology to perform an unmanned surgical procedure in a fixed facility. When the trauma pod is fully developed, it will not require human medical personnel onsite to perform surgery and will be small enough for a medical ground vehicle or air vehicle to carry. A human surgeon will perform all necessary surgical procedures from a remote location using a system of surgical manipulators. The system's actions then will be communicated wirelessly to the surgery site. The automated robotic systems will provide necessary support to the surgeon to conduct all phases of the operation.

SRI's team includes General Dynamics Corp.'s robotic systems division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Robotic Surgical Tech Inc. and state universities of Maryland, Texas and Washington.

DARPA is funding the trauma pod program through the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, a unit of the U.S. Army Research and Materiel Command.

Based in Menlo Park, Calif., SRI is a nonprofit research and development institute that conducts contract research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses, foundations and other organizations.

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