Firefighting robots to be developed by Japanese govt and Institutes

Firefighting robots to be developed by Japanese govt and Institutes

Firefighting robots could save a lot of lives some day. Lives of those affected by a fire disaster as well as lives of those people working as firefighters. Although this day has yet to come research efforts in this field pushes things further every year. They teach these things in firefighting schools? Anyway, robots assisting firefighters are not an often seen sight. However, there are robotic devices that can already be used for such purposes. These include bots that can be thrown into the fire site to inspect the situation, as well as large remote controlled fire extinguishers. 

A breakthrough in firefighting robots is under way in Japan as Govt and Institutes will start the production of prototypes of firefighting robots in this fiscal year, which will be used to fight large-scale fires at petrochemical complexes and chemical plants. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry's Fire and Disaster Management Agency aims to fully automate firefighting activities for tackling dangerous blazes where there is the possibility of explosions and other risks by maneuvering the robots soon after fires begin.

(Image credit: The Yomiuri Shimbun)

By using the robots, the agency will avoid putting firefighters at risk. The agency hopes to complete the project in fiscal 2018. According to the agency’s National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster, the planned system will comprise a computer unit to serve as the command headquarters; a water-discharging robot; a robot to extend hoses; and surveillance robots that confirm conditions at the source of the fire.

The robotic units will be carried by a six-ton truck. Mapping data for industrial plants and other facilities where the robot system will be used will be registered in the computer unit in advance. When a fire occurs, firefighters will drive the guided vehicle and set down the robots at a safe location in close proximity to the blaze.

The firefighters will then maneuver the robots to locations where they will conduct their respective activities. The robots will be automatically controlled by the computer unit and will approach respective points while confirming their positions using the Global Positioning System. The robots will choose their routes and move toward them independently, selecting a location from which water will be discharged based on information from the surveillance robots.

It will also be possible for firefighters to change routes and the location from which water will be discharged. The water-discharging robot will be capable of maintaining continuous operation for about 10 hours, and thus would be able to extinguish fires in a medium-size petroleum tank. The agency plans to make the robot able to discharge 4,000 liters of water per minute. The robot managing the hose extension will remain up to 300 meters behind the water-discharging robot. Firefighters will connect the hoses with water sources or pumper trucks to assist the robots’ activities. Hisanori Amano, 51, a senior research fellow of the institute, who is responsible for the robot development project, said, “Basically, firefighters will not need to control the robots.”

Amano, who is also an expert in system information studies, said, “By entrusting activities in especially dangerous places to the robots, firefighters will be able to concentrate on the overall of firefighting activity, including guiding the evacuation of nearby residents.” Four companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., will manufacture robots with high-level heat resistance capabilities. The institute and Tohoku University will develop the information control system. In this fiscal year’s budget, ¥230 million has been earmarked for the project.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, several tanks of liquefied petroleum gas at an oil refinery plant in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, exploded one after another. Seventeen LPG tanks burned out, and it took 10 days to completely extinguish the fires. (Source: the-japan-news.com)

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