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Firefighting Robots Go Autonomous

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A drone helps ignite and consume unburned fuel near a fires edge in support of the Columbine Wildland Fire Module, a crew of fire professionals based out of the Columbine Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest, in August 2020.

Autonomous or not, no one expects machines to completely replace humans on the fire line. Robots are tools, explains Giuseppe Loianno, an assistant professor at New York University, and one valuable thing they can do is reduce risks to human firefighters.

Credit: Columbine Wildland Fire Module

Firefighting robots can enter buildings that human firefighters cannot, due to high temperatures and toxic smoke.

Most are controlled remotely, but researchers are working to develop firefighting robots that can make decisions autonomously.

New York University's Giuseppe Loianno said the students who won the 2020 Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge built an autonomous robot using off-the-shelf materials, demonstrating that one can be built for as little as $10,000.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Fire Department's (LAFD) human-controlled robot, Robotics Systems 3, has been used alongside firefighters in buildings with collapsing roofs, with cameras to show the direction of water spray and help locate potential victims.

LAFD's Wade White said, "It will never replace firefighters," but can be a part of effective firefighting strategies that do not risk the lives of human firefighters.

From Scientific American
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