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Segway-like robots designed to help firefighters and save lives


June 7, 2013

The Firefighting Robot is designed to create 3D virtual reality maps of the interiors of burning buildings

The Firefighting Robot is designed to create 3D virtual reality maps of the interiors of burning buildings

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“Quick, send in the robots!” Far-fetched as it may sound, fire-fighting robots are indeed coming closer and closer to common use. While some of them are intended to actually put out the flames, others are designed more to scout out structures before human firefighters enter, letting those people know how to safely get around and where to concentrate their efforts. One of the latest machines in the second category is the self-balancing Firefighting Robot (FFR), being developed at the University of California, San Diego.

The two-wheeled FFR looks not unlike a Segway without a rider, and features two RGB video cameras (giving it stereoscopic vision), along with an infrared camera. Its central vertical “leg” can slide up and down within its body, allowing the robot to lift itself up over obstacles and even climb stairs.

The idea is that multiple FFR’s would go into a burning building and both autonomously and collaboratively scout its interior, using their three cameras to create 3D maps that included temperature data. That data could indicate hot spots for the firefighters to avoid, or it could indicate the live bodies of people trapped inside – the RGB images would show which was the case.

Other sensors on the FFR’s could also provide information on things like the presence of volatile gases and the structural integrity of the building.

Firefighters waiting outside would receive a wireless transmission in almost real time, as the robots were compiling the data. When subsequently entering the building, the firefighters would know exactly where to head to rescue the occupants and extinguish the flames, while putting themselves at less risk.

A prototype FFR can be seen in action in the video below.

Source: UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Obviously they're going to want to use some ceramic composite tires or another heat resistant materials so the fire doesn't melt them. A great thing to add would be a speaker system that calls out to people and small breather bottle with oxygen so a survivor could hear a fireman tell them to use it until they arrive. Most people do not burn. They die of smoke and hot air destroying their lungs long before the flames get them.

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Use for hotels, theme parks, malls, museums, labs, colleges, resorts airports. Upscale with more devices & sensors. House in lockers per floor per hotel?? etc Many uses for.

Stephen Russell
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