One of the most dangerous jobs is firefighting. When people are trapped in a burning building, firefighters risk their lives to rescue anyone who can not evacuate the building on fire. Firefighters are going to be receiving some assistance from now on. The size of these assisting machines will range in size from a kids’ red wagon to a tank that armies use. These assisting machines will be able to shoot out 2,500 gallons of water every minute. All these machines are firefighting robots.
What are fire robots capable of?
These robots will be able to get into buildings that are too dangerous for firefighters to enter. Since they are machines, the smoke will not be a visible hazard or breathing hazard for these robots. Those advantages will help robots get to people who need help faster than firefighters could. Currently, these robots are ordered what to do by a human with remote control. However, robots are being created that will not need to be controlled and will be able to make decisions on their own.
After there is a mass supply of these firefighting robots, will we still need human firefighters? The answer is yes. These robots are an excellent tool for firefighters to use in situations too dangerous for firefighters to go into themselves. With the hundreds of thousands of fires that happen every year, whether, in a home or forest, these robots will be able to go over terrain that is less than ideal for firefighters.
Advantages and downside of firefighting robots
With all these advantages, what is the downside? One downside is the price tag. These robots are not cheap to create or maintain. College students made a model by using equipment that is easy to find, many of which are the most affordable robots in existence. This model looked like a go-kart with a small computer. This computer has sensors that would prevent the go-kart from colliding into obstructions. The go-kart has an arm that can bend in more ways than a human can bend their arm and the arm has a camera and a hose.
There was a presentation where a robot would go into the doorway, pause then go into the room to evaluate the situation. The end of the arm will search to see where the heat is coming from. When heat is detected, water will be sprayed over the spot. When the fire was taken care of, the robot stood in a place for a moment as if it was showing off to the people who were watching.
What separated this robot from others was the supplies used to build the robot and how that was combined with the robot’s intelligence. This group of college students proved that firefighting robots could be made for as little as ten thousand dollars, depending on what supplies you used to build the robot. Most robots that are used to fight fires usually come with a price tag of three hundred thousand dollars.
Nobody knows how these cheaper models would do if it was used in a real fire. Another variable that concerns these robots is a building with multiple floors. Robots could learn to go up and down stairwells with the correct information technology. These robots would be unprepared if particular floors were uneven or some other variable that was not thought of beforehand came into play.
Experience with fire robots in Los Angeles
The fire department of Los Angeles City has had experience using these robots. Even when the robots had challenges moving around buildings, the robots could still pull hoses to a location and help hoses that were stuck in mud get loose. It was also safer to send in robots to buildings where the roof was about to break down because if a firefighter entered that building, there was a possibility the firefighter could have died when the roof broke down into the building.
The robots as giant as military tanks can push debris out of their way and spray ten times more water than an ordinary fire hose. However, these robots are still required to be commanded by a human beings. However, the human being that controls these robots are hundreds of feet away from the fire, but they can still see what the robot can see. One camera shows where the water is going to be sprayed. Another camera uses thermal imaging to see if anybody is still in the building.
A significant difference between a robot in a real fire and the model built by a group of college students is that the robot in a real fire presents information to the firefighters, who have to make choices based on the situation presented through the robot’s cameras. That’s why these robots will not replace the need for firefighters, but they are a valuable device for firefighters to use when they are called out to a fire.
Robots the United States Forest Service
While many people may not have heard about this technology until recently, the United States Forest Service has been using this technology for the last 20 years. Many firefighters were losing their lives dealing with forest fires, so they needed a safer option to rescue employees when they found themselves in a bad situation.
To combat forest fires, they created dragon eggs which are a mixture of glycol and potassium permanganate. These mixtures start small fires, but the purpose is to equalize the levels of forest fuels. The way these “dragon eggs” were used is they were dropped ahead of a typical fire to push the fire back the way it came and use up fuel and create an area that was resistant to fire. Once the fire was made more minor but still a safe distance from homes, firefighters would be sent in to care for the more minor fire.
The similarity between these robots that fight fires and dragon eggs is these are tools that can be used to minimize the risks that fire has on human life. Nobody has to worry about firefighters being out of a job because someone nearby still has to control the robot. Fighting fire with fire may seem counterproductive, but if it keeps a forest fire from getting too big and makes a fire more manageable, that means the firefighters would also be safe.