Fire is one of the most destructive and dangerous forces of nature that can cause severe damage, injury, and death. Firefighters are the brave professionals who risk their lives to protect people and property from fire. However, firefighters are also vulnerable to the hazards of fire, such as heat, smoke, toxic gases, explosions, and collapses. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 62 firefighter fatalities and 58,250 firefighter injuries in 2019.
To reduce the risks and enhance the capabilities of firefighters, researchers and engineers have developed various types of robotics that can assist in fire safety. Robotics are machines that can perform tasks autonomously or remotely by using sensors, actuators, computers, and communication systems. Robotics can be used in fire safety for various purposes, such as:
- Detecting and locating fires
- Extinguishing and suppressing fires
- Searching and rescuing victims
- Monitoring and assessing hazardous conditions
- Providing situational awareness and feedback
There are different types of robotics that can be used in fire safety, depending on their design, mobility, functionality, and application. Some examples are:
- Fixed firefighting robotic systems: These are devices that are installed in buildings or structures and can automatically detect and extinguish fires using sprinklers, alarms, or other methods. They use infrared or ultraviolet sensors to sense fires and can prevent them from spreading or escalating1.
- Mobile firefighting robotic systems: These are vehicles or platforms that can move on wheels, tracks, legs, or other means and can carry water hoses, foam cannons, cameras, or other tools to fight fires. They can be controlled remotely by operators or work autonomously using cameras, lidars, radars, or other sensors to navigate and operate23.
- Aerial firefighting robotic systems: These are drones or aircrafts that can fly over fires and provide aerial support or surveillance. They can drop water or retardant on fires, monitor fire behavior and spread, relay information and images to ground crews or command centers, or assist in search and rescue operations4.
- Humanoid firefighting robotic systems: These are robots that resemble human beings and can perform human-like tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, opening doors, or using tools. They can access areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans or other robots to reach and can work alongside human firefighters or independently4.
Robotics used in fire safety have many advantages over human firefighters, such as:
- They can withstand higher temperatures and longer exposure to fire
- They can operate in low visibility and high noise environments
- They can carry heavier loads and use more powerful tools
- They can work faster and more efficiently
- They can reduce human casualties and injuries
However, robotics used in fire safety also have some limitations and challenges, such as:
- They require high initial investment and maintenance costs
- They may malfunction or fail due to technical errors or environmental factors
- They may lack human intuition or judgment in complex situations
- They may face ethical or legal issues regarding responsibility or liability
- They may encounter social resistance or acceptance from firefighters or the public
Therefore, further research and development are needed to improve the performance, reliability, safety, and usability of robotics used in fire safety. Robotics used in fire safety are not meant to replace human firefighters but to complement them and enhance their capabilities. Robotics used in fire safety are innovative tools that can help save lives and property from fire.