Robots are the future! Industry and everyday life relies on the work of robots of varying degrees. Now there are robotic fire fighters who could help put out fires and protect firemen and women from fires they would otherwise, be unable to enter.
As one can imagine, a variety of tasks and commands will need to be performed by these robots: balancing, using fire hoses, extinguishing fire with water and turning valves. Another key task will be searching for survivors using a vision system. They need to be able to tolerate extreme heat and the US Navy plans on testing the new technology this summer.
Engineers at Virginia Tech, along with other universities within the United States, have built the Shipboard Autonomous Fire-fighting Robot (SAFFiR).
The Office of Naval Research says, “The human-sized autonomous robot is capable of finding and suppressing shipboard fires and working seamlessly with human fire-fighters.” A machine like this should also be “able to withstand higher heat for longer periods than human fire-fighters,” it adds.
The USS Shadwell is a ship that has been decommissioned by the US navy and is regularly set ablaze in order to test new technology and equipment for fire fighting. There are two varieties of the robot, created at Virginia Tech and the universities of California, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania by researchers who will test them aboard this ship. The first robot will be 5 feet (1.5 m) and the other one will be taller but a lot more cutting-edge.
Using robots in the military is not new. There are many battlefield robots used by the Pentagon’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in order to make battle safer for human soldiers. As well, they are trying to augment soldiers’ capabilities with exoskeletons and ‘smart’ uniforms.
Now there is a new unit dedicated to researching the cross between biology and engineering. They aim to create solar cells, renewable energy and man-made super-materials. Many critics wonder if this move towards technology in the military will head towards creating artificial life.
Meghan Neal, journalist at Motherboard, says: “It makes you think: Why bother with mechanical robots when you can engineer fake human replicants to fight your battles?”
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[Image via nrl.navy]