Rolling robot helps fire brigade in action

February 21, 2023

Reconnaissance at potentially dangerous locations – findings are stored in database

A small caterpillar vehicle developed by researchers at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid (https://www.urjc.es) and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (https://www.uam.es/uam/inicio) is intended to help indoor firefighters fight fires effectively in the future. According to the team around Noelia Fernández Talavera, the vehicle, which is equipped with numerous sensors, takes over tasks that could be dangerous or even fatal for people in an emergency.

Avoiding accidents

“This robot is part of the ‘HelpResponder’ project, which aims to reduce accident rates and intervention team deployment times,” says Talavera. The robot is equipped with cameras as well as sensors that measure temperature, humidity and pollutants in the air. A navigation system is also on board. If needed, other systems can be installed, such as thermal cameras to search for missing persons, they say.

The robot stores its findings in a database that firefighters in the field can access at any time with their smartphones. This allows strategies to be optimised and hazards to be avoided, such as burning roof beams that threaten to collapse. The operator can examine areas of particular interest for firefighting in more detail, for example zooming in to check whether a gas cylinder is in danger of being caught by the fire.

Valuable support

The robot can also go on an autonomous reconnaissance tour or, better, drive. To do this, it is fed a roughly outlined course and given a destination to head for. In doing so, it avoids obstacles thanks to its radar sensors. Telavera and her colleagues have tested their robot in simulations and sample fires. In the process, the little helper effectively handled various tasks and provided valuable support to the firefighters.

The real-life tests took place in the Unified Safety Center of Alcorcón in cooperation with the fire brigade of that city. Result: The prototype of the new robot can also work under harsh conditions and localise hot as well as toxic hearths, so that firefighters can make quick decisions and generate an intervention strategy based on the data obtained.

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