US Navy unveils firefighting robot

PCWorld | Feb 4, 2015

SAFFiR is a nearly six-foot tall humanoid robot that can walk across uneven floors, use thermal imaging cameras to detect a fire and put it out with a hose.

This is SAFFir, a nearly six-foot tall humanoid robot that the Navy hopes can take the dangerous job of putting out fires on battleships out of the hands of sailors.

John Farley
Naval Research Laboratory
If we have a ship on fire, we have to quickly get it under control and then regain the ship’s ability to maintain its fighting mission.
We have a lot of flammable systems on board....

During a demo last fall on the Navy’s fire test ship, the USS Shadwell, the robot was able to walk across uneven floors, use thermal imaging cameras to detect a fire and operate a hose to put out that fire.

The robot is the work of researchers at Virginia Tech. SAFFir uses infrared stereovision, LIDAR and other sensors to see through smoke. LIDAR is a rotating laser that gives the location of the points in the robot’s field of vision.

SAFFiR is an electromechanical robot. it’s powered by batteries and all its motors are electrical. Right now, it can operate for about 30 minutes on one battery.

The robot is programmed to take measured steps and use hoses on its own, but still gets directions from humans sitting at a computer. The Office of Naval Research is working on new ways to interact with the robot using voice and gesture commands.

Thomas McKenna
Office of Naval Research
We’re working toward human robot teams, what we call the hybrid force. Humans and robots working together.

SAFFiR is a prototype but the Navy wants to develop a more advanced design of the robot as part of a long-term research program that will equip the robot with enhanced intelligence, communication capabilities, speed, computing power and an extended battery life.

In San Francisco, Melissa Aparicio, IDG News Service.