Offbeat

Navy Develops Firefighting Humanoid Robot

For over the last 85 years, the Naval Research Laboratory has served both the Navy and the country in keeping up with, and developing, the technological challenges of the world. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that they have recently unveiled a firefighting robot.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have recently commissioned “an interdisciplinary team to develop a humanoid robot that could fight fires on the next generation of combatants.”

A humanoid robot “was chosen because it was deemed best suited to operate within the confines of an environment that was designed for human mobility,” and will be able “to move autonomously throughout the ship, interact with people, and fight fires, handling many of the dangerous firefighting tasks that are normally performed by humans.”

The firefighting robot, called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR), should also be able to maneuver in the narrow passages and ladderways that are found on ships. It’s designed with an enhanced multi-modal sensor technology for advanced navigation, as well as, a sensor suite. The suite will include a camera, gas sensor, and stereo IR camera for it to see through smoke.

The upper body will be able to throw propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades, while it’s lower body will be capable of walking in all directions, balancing in sea conditions, and traversing obstacles. It’s battery life should have enough energy for 30 minutes of firefighting.

One of the most interesting features of the SAFFiR development is that the robot will work as a team-member with people. This includes the robot being able to make decisions, multimodal interfaces that will allow the robot to focus the attention of the human team leader, and allowing the robot to understand and respond to gestures.

Virgina Tech and the University of Pennsylvania researchers are also working with NRL on the SAFFiR project. The team plans to test the firefighting robot onboard the ex-USS Shadwell in late September 2013.

Besides firefighting, SAFFiR could provide the “opportunity for other potential warfighting applications within the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Does anyone else see “I, Robot” now becoming a reality?

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