This summer, the US Navy is going to test a new creation: robot firefighters designed to fight fires without risking human lives.
Just about everyone agrees that the profession of firefighter is a risky one. And while the most dangerous situations may not happen often, when they do, they represent a serious danger for firefighters. The development of robotics has created an unprecedented opportunity to delegate this job to machines, which are better prepared to withstand the extreme conditions of a fire, and whose use avoids the need to risk human lives. With this goal in mind, this summer, the US Navy will test several humanoid models that are capable of carrying out the tasks of real robot firefighters.
To build these robot firefighter models, they worked with engineers from several universities in the United States, including Virginia Tech. These are systems that can perform some of the most important tasks that are normally done by human professionals, and in some cases can even do them better.
These SaFFiRs (Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot) are designed to withstand more intense heat than humans, and for a longer time. They can also hold and carry a hose, spray water on a fire source, manipulate valves and aim the stream of water. The robot firefighters are also equipped with visual technology that lets them look for survivors in the affected area.
They’ve created two versions of this humanoid robot. One of them is 1.5 metres tall, and the other is slightly taller and more advanced. These models are adapted to fight fires on ships, because the project has been promoted by the US Navy. The idea is for these machines to work shoulder to shoulder with human firefighters to put out the fire.
Robots that replace human beings
But no one can overlook the potential applications of this development in the civilian world, supporting – and in some cases even replacing – the work that firefighters do at a fire. It’s not for nothing that many technological advances are born in military labs before they go on to form part of society, and one example of this is the push that the US defence agency DARPA has given to driverless cars.
Today, robotics is emerging strongly and the robot firefighter model isn’t the only humanoid with surprising capabilities. Robot cooks are a concrete example of how machines can carry out functions that up to this point have been reserved for humans. What is even more surprising is to discover that there are systems of artificial intelligence that are able to pass the university entrance exam in Japan.
Images: US Naval Research Laboratory