Fire fighting robot can save lives
The robot tanker can fight fires where firefighters can’t go.
The Los Angeles fire department now has a new team member. It’s not a new celebrity spokesperson or a big shiny red fire truck. LAFD now is the first department in the US to have a Thermite RS3 robotic vehicle according to Los Angeles CBS Local and it has the potential to save lives.
The 3,500 lb robot looks like a small tank and it’s ready to battle any fire it encounters. Outfitted with a firehose that can spray 2,500 gallons per minute – or foam – and a front plow that can push debris including cars, this robot tanker can go where people can’t
The RS3 robot can be operated remotely in situations where it is too dangerous for firefighters to handle on their own. That was the case when the robot was put to work on October 13, 2020, hours before its official debut was scheduled, on a greater alarm fire in downtown LA.
“These large fires sometimes cause us to back out our firefighters because we’re concerned about the potential for building collapse,” Los Angeles fire chief Ralph Terrazas said in a statement.
As more than 300 firefighters battled the blaze in two industrial textile buildings, Terrazas told the Los Angeles Times, “I can afford to lose one of these wonderful machines, I cannot afford to lose a firefighter.”
He said that the robotic vehicle used its front plow to push its way into the burning building and fight the fire from within instead of spraying from the outside which is usually the case in a large fire where the building could collapse.
“You can turn the water cannon vertical and turn it into its own sprinkler system,” Terrazas said. It may make us rethink some of the ways we tackle fires when it’s available.”
There are also multiple high-definition cameras and an infrared camera that can help locate trapped people or the source of the flames. This remarkable robot can go 10 hours before being refueled.
Later in the day, during the planned demonstration, the robotic firefighter unleashed thousands of gallons of water, according to the LA Times, used its plow to push a Chevrolet Celebrity, and sped over a specially designed assault course of railroad ties. It can even go off-road to fight fires.
The technology behind the RS3 robotic vehicle has been used by oil companies to put out dangerous oil-fed fires. The design was based on US army robots that are used to destroy explosive devices and was built by Howe and Howe Technologies.
The robotic firefighter joins a fleet of other robots in the city including the LA police department bomb squad’s Batcat, a remote-controlled vehicle that looks like a large forklift and has a telescopic arm to disarm explosives.
The RS3 robot has been assigned to Fire Station 3, LA’s busiest, and is part of the search and rescue team. While LA is a really large city, this is a central location. The robotic firefighting vehicle was purchased for $272,000 by the nonprofit LAFD Foundation. One of the major donors was Elon Musk’s foundation.
New robotic technology is doing more than just making firefighting safer. Robots are doing other dangerous work to make the world a safer place. Robots can be used to disable old mines and to disassemble munitions so that they can be safely recycled.
Robots can be used to deliver food during the Corona virus lockdown and can check on high risk patients in their homes. This technology has the potential to help in so many ways. What will they think of next?