There is concern that robots could one day steal jobs from human workers, but there is a niche opportunity for robots able to help in dangerous work zones. In addition to natural disasters, scenarios such as 9/11, Fukushima, and similar hazardous locations would be the ideal opportunity to launch robots to help human first responders.
DARPA, UCLA and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab visited the Fukushima Daiichi power station to get a firsthand view of the chaos - and have a better idea of what the next generation of robots need to be able to accomplish in case of similar disasters.
DARPA launched a competition in 2012 for engineers to design disaster robotics technology, with participants undergoing an intense obstacle course to see which robots would succeed. There are a number of high-level university programs focused on robotics research, and the potential monetary awards are lucrative.