Firefighting is a dangerous business and every year we hear of firefighters losing their lives and risking them to help put out fires and save others in the process, so we have to wonder when could it be when robots could actually replace human firefighters, thus taking out some of the risk in the process?

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While we’re not sure when we can see robot firefighters on land, the US Navy has been working on a robotic firefighter to help battle potential fires that might break out while at sea. Dubbed the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (or SAFFiR), this is a robot developed by the Office of Naval Research that will be able to help combat fires on board a ship.

34489_large_SAFFiR_FP_WideThis is done by lobbing fire retarding grenades into the fire as well as assess damage that the fire might have done through a special camera that allows the robot to see through smoke. So why a humanoid robot, you ask?

According to Dr Thomas McKenna, ONR program manager for human-robot interaction and cognitive neuroscience, “Every compartment and passageway on a ship is designed for human occupation and mobility. There are numerous barriers, like sills, that would block a wheeled robot. In addition, a humanoid robot can use firefighting gear designed for humans, such as protective coats, backpack fire suppressants, hand-held sensors and hose nozzles.”

SAFFiR will be equipped with a variety of sensors and can even handle a fire hose on its own. It is battery powered which is good for 30 minutes and is also capable of balancing itself even in rough seas, and can maneuver its way around obstacles. The robot is still in development and the next-generation is expected to include communications capabilities, extended battery life, and enhanced intelligence.

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