Robotics For Hi Tech Fire Fighting Machines
One of the greatest attributes of mankind are their immense capability to adapt and create newer ways of accomplishing complicated tasks. It is this quest for innovation that drives man and creates new opportunities for the world we find ourselves in. Every day, humans are finding out new ways to accomplish previously daunting feats that have previously been thought unimaginable. This innovation by man embodied by ‘technology’, has occurred at a rapid rate over the last century with advancements in medicine, war, business, telecommunications and even firefighting.
Robotics in Firefighting
In the fall of 2014, engineering students from Virginia Tech, Alabama created a new world and made history in a five minute simulation that placed a humanoid robot that was about the size of a human with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S Navy ship. The robot was capable and identifying the threat and located the fire and sprayed water from the hose in order to extinguish the fire. This however was not the only attempt by man to make use of machines to extinguish fires.
The use of robots to put out fires has been extensively studied recently because of the daily activities of firefighters and their routine exposure to dangerous conditions in order to save lives. The concept of a robotic system can be quite easily explained, however it is not quite so easy when being transformed from theory to practical. These ‘robotic firefighters’ are meant to perceive their environment using sensors whilst humans using computer programs control the robot to put out these fires.
An article by Brian Y. Lattimer (Ph.D) disclosed that in 2011, 70,090 firefighters in the United States alone experienced injuries requiring medical attention. From this number, 61 deaths were recorded. These large numbers suggest that newer ways for the fighting of this disaster be developed. However, all kinds of fires are not the same, as robotics needs to be suited for fires that exist in buildings/structures, vehicles, aircrafts, ships and even bush fires. It is therefore not exactly the easiest of tasks for robotics engineers considering the constraints that emanate from that line of work.
The latest trend in firefighting technology has been aimed at several functionalities which they machines are supposed to possess if they are to support firefighters or completely take over. These robots would be required to possess human-like knowledge in the form of sizing up a fire, identifying humans within a fire who may be trapped, controlling the spread of the fire, monitoring the situation and even suppressing the fire.
Within these recent trends of Hi tech firefighting machines lies the distinguishing factor between the types of robotic systems that can be used to fight fires. These are fixed and mobile systems. The fixed systems are utilized where there is a significant fire hazard in an environment with little mobility that may need to be extinguished quickly. An example of this may be a warehouse. The mobile systems are engineered to have more advanced features for navigation that may include outdoor firefighting.
Whilst the human race can take pride in its advances in technology and ability to design new ways to carry out its tasks, there still lies a whole world of virtually unending unknowns that man has to navigate through. However, we can take these small victories that innovation has given us while we continue to push forward trying to break even more boundaries.