US Navy Builds Robot Fireman – Complete With Plucky Drone Sidekick

But latest trials suggests there is more work to be done

American Navy scientists have revealed details of a prototype robot that can fight fires on ships.

The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) is uncannily humanoid. Standing at 177cm tall, it walks on two legs, can navigate uneven surfaces, and is dexterous enough to operate fire hoses and doors.

The only catch for a fire fighting robot that’s been designed to put out fires out at sea is that it can be damaged by fire and water.

However, these obvious flaws are a symptom of the fact that SAFFiR is currently in prototype form.

Fire up the robot

robot handThe robot is currently remote controlled, though there are plans to partner it with a zippy drone that will be able to fly ahead through cramped ship interiors and report back what it finds.

SAFFiR was birthed scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech, funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR.)

Equipped with stereoscopic thermal imaging cameras and a rotating LIDAR laser sensor, the robot can navigate even through thick smoke.

During a test run aboard a decommissioned vessel, the Navy claimed that SAFFiR was able to use these thermal imaging capabilities to find overheated equipment and handle a hose to extinguish a small fire.

While the robot requires remote operation, the drone will be able to operate autonomously. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Sensible Machines, it can find fires, provide estimates of their temperatures and map their location on the ship. The only downside is that it only has a flying time of five minutes.

“We’re working toward human-robot teams” ONR program manager Thomas McKenna said in a statement. “It’s what we call the hybrid force: humans and robots working together.”

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