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Fires in skyscrapers are considered some of the most dangerous, as was depicted in the 1974 American disaster film “Towering Inferno.” To help firefighters, researchers have developed a wall-climbing reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to find the source of the fire and people trapped inside.

Fires in skyscrapers are notoriously difficult to control and extinguish. They spread quickly through the densely populated structures and present unique challenges due to complex, vertical structures. High rise fires are hard to assess particularly because they limit access to the building, cutting off levels from one another.

To this end, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) developed the Fireproof Aerial RObot System (FAROS), a drone that can detect fires in skyscrapers, examine the inside of buildings and relay the information in real-time to firefighters at the ground station.

FAROS is an extended version of CAROS – Climbing Aerial RObot System – that was created in 2014 by the same team. The difference is, FAROS can also fly using a quadrotor system. It can easily shift from flight to crawling on walls. This allows it great manoeuvrability in the narrow, debris filled spaces inside the burning skyscraper.

FAROS is equipped with laser 2D scanner, an altimeter, and an inertia measurement sensor, that allow it to move around autonomously. To detect objects, people, and the point of ignition, FAROS is equipped with a thermal-imaging camera and dedicated image-processing technology.

To protect it from the fire itself, the body FAROS is covered with aramid fibres that protect it from the direct effects of the flame. The fibre skin creates an air pocket underneath, that insulated the robot from the heat. A thermoelectric cooling system maintains a safe temperature range under the fibre skin.

Professor Myung, who led the team, said, “As cities become more crowded with skyscrapers and super structures, fire incidents in these high-rise buildings are life-threatening massive disasters. The FAROS can be aptly deployed to the disaster site at an early stage of such incidents to minimize the damage and maximize the safety and efficiency of rescue mission.”