Navy Robot Firefighter Puts Out a Blaze for the First Time
The US Navy has created an autonomous, humanoid robot that can successfully fight fires, even as it moves at approximately the speed of a tortoise. The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) just had its first hands-on test in fighting fires, and it passed with flying colors.
SAFFiR is a bipedal robot that can walk on uneven surfaces, use thermal heating in order to anticipate overheating equipment, and use its basic motor skills to put out fires with a hose. It even has a rotating laser that enables it to see through dense smoke. It moves far too slowly to be widely used by fire departments, but by passing its first test, it has proven itself as an effective tool for fighting fires on Navy ships without risking human life.
"We set out to build and demonstrate a humanoid capable of mobility aboard a ship, manipulating doors and fire hoses, and equipped with sensors to see and navigate through smoke," said Dr. Thomas McKenna, program manager at the Office of Naval Research. "The long-term goal is to keep sailors from the danger of direct exposure to fire."
Although the robot was built specifically to fight fires, McKenna is hopeful that the bipedal robot will have other uses as well: "We have taken a look at other kinds of sensors that you can put on these robots. A bipedal robot could be configured to take shipboard measurements, and scan for corrosion and leaks."
And here is another video of the bot in action from New Scientist, awesomely set to Otis McDonald's "Scarlet Fire":