Are unmanned firefighters for real?

Are unmanned firefighters for real?


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Science fiction or reality: Vision-guided humanoid robot and UAV work in tandem to fight fires. Get the whole story right here.

As part of an Office of Naval Research (ONR) project called Damage Control Technologies for the 21st Century (DC-21), a humanoid robot called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) will work in tandem with a quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fight fires.

SAFFiR recently made its debut at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology EXPO. Back in November 2014, the robot was tested aboard a decommissioned Navy vessel, the USS Shadwell. In the framework of these tests, the robot utilized infrared imaging technology to identify overheated equipment. It was also used a hose to extinguish a small fire in a series of experiments.

“We set out to build and demonstrate a humanoid capable of mobility aboard a ship, manipulating doors and fire hoses, and equipped with sensors to see and navigate through smoke,” said Dr. Thomas McKenna, ONR program manager for human-robot interaction and cognitive neuroscience.

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“The long-term goal is to keep Sailors from the danger of direct exposure to fire,” added Dr. McKenna.

According to Vision Systems Design, SAFFiR utilizes a number of components for its imaging system, including infrared stereo cameras and a rotating LIDAR laser, enabling it to ’see’ through dense smoke on the ship. The robot is programmed to take measured steps and handle hoses on its own. Nevertheless, for now, it takes its instruction from the researchers at the computer console.

“The robot does have the ability to perform autonomous tasks, but we have a human in the loop to allow an operator to intervene in any type of task that the robot’s doing,” said Brian Lattimer, associate professor for mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech.