Firefighting Humanoid Robot Blasts Flames

Robot suppressing a wood crib fire in a testing laboratory. Courtesy photo

Robot reaching for a fire hose nozzle in a testing laboratory. Courtesy photo

HSNW News:

In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Ala., Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship.

The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames.

The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy to better assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots. The firefighting robot is named SAFFiR, short for Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot, and the U.S. Office of Naval Research envisions a future — long off, but tangible — in which every ship has a robot as a tool for firefighters.

“It’s not going to replace Navy firefighters, it’s going to assist Navy firefighters,” said Viktor Orekhov of Morristown, Tenn., who graduated in December 2014 with a doctorate in mechanical engineering.

A VT release reports that Orekhov is one of 15 engineering students in the Terrestrial Robotics Engineering and Controls Lab (TREC) and the Extreme Environments, Robotics & Materials Laboratory (ExtReMe) who helped conceive, design, build, and test SAFFiR.

SAFFiR is a bipedal 140-pound, 5-foot 10-inch humanoid robot that can walk, stretch and bend its legs, swivel its head, and hold and operate a hose with its hands. It has 33 degrees of freedom in movement. It can see in three formats: a standard stereo camera rig, lasers to provide precise ranges to obstacles, and stereo thermal imaging for range finding through smoke and detecting heat.

During a three-day demo in November 2014, students from the TREC and ExtReMe labs, along with faculty advisor Brian Lattimer, an associate professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, prepped SAFFiR for a fire suppression test onboard the former USS Shadwell, a decommissioned ship in Mobile, Alabama, now used as a damage control research center to test new shipboard firefighting techniques.

Along a slim, low-hung hallway, SAFFiR was tasked — programmed by the two labs’ imaging and manipulation team — to walk toward a sailor, stop, turn, locate the heat source of a fire behind a door, and (once the door opened) take a hose and blast the flames with water, all without falling or stopping.

Source: Homeland Security News Wire

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