Robots have long been viewed as a safer alternative to keep humans out of harm's way when it comes to deploying into hostile environments, be it in a military setting or other unsuitable environment. Now, news comes to us from South Korea that local firemen will soon be working alongside a pair of robotic firefighting machines that can be deployed into extreme conditions.
The two automated, wheeled robots will be tested in fire stations in Daegu, south of Seoul, and the trial period will run through November with 45 firehouses participating.
If all goes as planned, the firefighting robots will be deployed nationwide, according to officials at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
The first machine -- dubbed "Fire Spy Robot" -- was developed by Hoya Robot, and measures 12.5 centimeters in diameter (about 5 inches) and weighs 2kg (~4.4 lbs.). Its operator can maneuver the robot and see into the environment via an installed camera.
The second vehicle being tested, which was developed by DRB Fatec is larger, at 88 centimeters tall (34.6 inches) and 85 centimeters wide (33.5 inches). According to a company official, the device can withstand temperatures of up to 500˚C (932˚F) for more than one hour.
Closer to home, Augusta, Maine officials are reported to be considering using Federal Homeland Security funding to procure a robotic remote-controlled assistant to handle jobs deemed too dangerous for humans.
According to Police Chief Wayne McCamish, the robot could be used in a variety of situations and hazardous environments. A remote operator could be situated as far as 1,800 feet away, to minimize risk.
If the City Council approves the purchase, the device would be bought with about $50,000 of $207,000 in federal Homeland Security grant funding.
Designers of future firefighting robots will have their opportunity to enter into a competition at Trinity College in Hartford, CT on April 10-11, 2010. The school announced the dates to its 2010 contest and posted the rules online.
According to Trinity College, robot designers will be faced with new challenges such as a new random candle location option and an increased time reduction for the Variable Door Location option. The contest will also feature the "House on Fire Expert Division," which was introduced in 2009. There will also be an award for the most innovative Tiny Robot. The 2009 contest drew more than 100 teams from around the world with registrations from as far away as Portugal and Indonesia.