Hose-wielding humanoid robots could one day keep Navy firefighters out of harm’s way.
A prototype of an adult-size firefighting bot was unveiled this week at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the exposition was the perfect place to show off a futuristic robot equipped to fight fires at sea.
The bot’s name is SAFFiR — short for Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot. Standing on two “legs,” SAFFiR is about the size of an adult man, measuring 5 feet 10 inches (1.8 meters) tall and weighing about 140 lbs. (64 kilograms).
The robot has three ways of seeing the world: a stereo camera with two lenses that allow it to see with binocular vision (like a human), a thermal imaging camera that enables it to detect heat and see through smoke, and a laser range finder that allows it to map out the distance between itself and an object. Dexterous enough to hold a fire hose, SAFFiR can both detect and put out a blaze.
Engineering students from the Terrestrial Robotics Engineering and Controls Lab and the Extreme Environments, Robotics & Materials Laboratory at Virginia Tech created the firefighting bot as part of a Navy initiative aimed at helping sailors fight fires at sea. The bot could one day be used to carry out safety inspections aboard a ship, patrol for fires and control fire damage if it detects a blaze.
In the future, every Navy ship that leaves port could have one of these firefighting robots on board, the researchers said.
“It’s not going to replace Navy firefighters; it’s going to assist Navy firefighters,” Viktor Orekhov, a former Virginia Tech doctoral student who helped design and build the bot, said in a statement.