"The brother of one of my students got shot in the leg," explained inventor Ahmad Heidar to The Independent. "It was such a memorable moment. Within a few minutes, another shot to the neck had killed him. It took us another 30 minutes to get to his body. They had to use ropes and metal poles, because they couldn't get there."
Heidar, a robotics professor based out of Syria, was outraged at the tale. At some point, he arrived in Turkey, where he met up with an old friend named Bilal. Bilal had recently lost two cousins - one who whom was left in the street for a week before the body was retrieved. The friend, of course, was similarly appalled. He was also a mechanical engineer.
Together, the two decided to ensure that others would not suffer the same fate as their friends and loved ones. Together, they developed Robotena.
Robotena is a "nurse" robot which will be able to transport bodies (and theoretically, wounded men and women) out of warzones, where real people might not necessarily be able to safely tread. What's more, the machine - which will be about the size of a bulldozer - is plated with armor to allow it to protect the victims within.
Heidar plans to design the robot to be about 2.2 meters high with a head about a meter wide. It will be equipped with two large, metallic arms on the front (which together weigh about 500 pounds on their own) and outfitted with a total of five separate cameras. It costs about $25,000 to produce, and coming up with the money has been something of a problem for Heidar and Bilal. Kickstarter has produced $15,000, but since crowd funding initiatives are barred in conflict zones, they're still well short of what they need.
That's not the only complication Heidar's run into, either. A number of military groups are trying to force him to weaponise his invention. As a result, he's ended up in hiding from their efforts.
"I am not very safe," Heidar explained.
That said, Heidar's certainly no stranger to danger. Back in 2011, a friend of his tried to recruit him into the Syrian Electronic Army - a site which hacks opposition sites for the government and media. This, his friend told him, would allow him to fill his mandatory two years of military service. Heidar's response was to flee and join The Pirates of Aleppo (a collective which resisted the regime). One way or another, it seems, Robotena will get built.
Then rescue teams in war-torn environments will have yet one more piece of gear in their arsenal to help those in need.