Naval Lab hosts robot firefighter research


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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory…recently hosted robotics research teams from Virginia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania to demonstrate the most current developments of advanced autonomous systems to assist in discovery, control, and damage control of incipient fires.

The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) autonomous robot is capable of finding and suppressing shipboard fires and working seamlessly with human firefighters. The objective of SAFFiR is to develop human-centric, autonomous systems for fire safety and damage control, reducing damage to Navy ships at sea and decreasing the recovery time…

Fighting fires, inherent by its extreme unpredictability, high temperatures, and rapid decline of environmental and structural integrities, can at times prove challenging to even the most seasoned firefighting veteran. Add to this scenario a cloistered platform, say many levels down inside a seagoing ship, and the challenge is exponentially increased resulting in extreme risks to human life. Yet, given these risks, a shipboard fire must be contained and extinguished for the safety of the crew and continued mission readiness of the ship.

To mitigate these risks, NRL researchers…are working with university researchers to develop advanced firefighting technologies for shipboard fires using humanoid robots…

This highly specialized research, to promote advanced firefighting techniques, includes development of the novel robotic platform and fire-hardened materials…algorithms for perception and navigation autonomy…human-robot interaction technology, and computational cognitive models that will allow the robotic firefighter to work shoulder-to-shoulder and interact naturally with naval firefighters

…Students demonstrated the complex motion, agility, and walking algorithms of the robots over natural and manmade terrain and simulated shipboard sea state (pitch and roll) conditions. Also demonstrated were ‘seek-and-find’ algorithms for locating a fire emergency, in this case an open flame, and the use of ‘artificial muscle’ for the lifting and activation of fire suppression equipment, such as opening a water valve, lifting and walking with a fire hose, and activating a nozzle…

Later this year, the robotic teams are expecting to conduct shipboard trials onboard the Navy’s only full-scale fire test ship, the ex-USS Shadwell, moored in Mobile, Alabama.

We have regular readers in that neck of the prairie I’ll make certain are apprised of the tests. Should be way cool. Or hot as the case may be.

Thanks, Mike

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