Traditionally, it’s been hard to eliminate the human factor from firefighting. But recent innovations like the design of a tank-like all-terrain truck, which delivers mini robots that can be controlled from a safe distance to spray water on fires, could soon change all that. Howe and Howe Technologies, based in Maine, has designed Bulldog RS-1, a monster of a truck with rugged traveling capabilities that delivers smaller robotic trucks that will put themselves in harm’s way to fight fires and respond to other disasters.
The Bulldog RS-1 isn’t your typical brave and handsome firefighter going fearlessly into a blaze. The truck is more a gigantic Tonka toy -- built on International 6500 4x4 standards and featuring 54-inch tires -- running over anything in its way to get to the scene of a fire or other emergency situation that requires its assistance.
The Bulldog RS-1 is an all-terrain monster truck that can deliver remote-controlled firefighting and disaster-response robots to a fire or a disaster site. Twin brothers and company owners Michael and Geoffrey Howe -- who themselves have a Discovery program dedicated to their innovative vehicle design -- developed the Bulldog, which they are dubbing the "firefighter of the future." (Source: Howe and Howe Technologies)
Once there, it deploys smaller and varied versions of itself -- mini-me Bulldogs, if you will -- down a ramp from the back of the truck to do more of the dangerous work, potentially saving the risk firefighters take to go into a blaze themselves. Specifically, the Bulldog’s passengers are other Howe-and-Howe developed robots like Thermite and Guardian, both designed by the company to provide emergency response.
Thermite can deliver up to 600 gallons-per-minute of water to douse a fire, with remote-control capability from up to a quarter mile away, giving the controller a safe distance from a fire. Guardian, meanwhile, has a robotic arm that can connect to the Bulldog RS1’s hydraulic system to perform tasks like moving rubble or other debris from a disaster site.
The Bulldog can also carry onboard other robots designed by Howe and Howe, including the Eagle Eye remote-control camera capable of thermal imaging and night vision, and the Terra Max, which also can remove obstructions from its path and clear the way for disaster-response activities.
In terms of firefighting robots, the Howe brothers do indeed appear to be on to something, as robots seem to be the way forward for firefighting to cut back on or even eliminate human danger. Maybe in addition to Howe and Howe robots, the Bulldog RS-1 will find itself with another passenger someday -- a humanoid firefighting robot called the SAFFiR (Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot) designed by researchers at the RoMeLa labs at Virginia Tech to fight fires on ships.
This robot is definitely pretty intimdating and looks like it could get the job done under even the toughest conditions. Interesting that these guys are celebs in their own right--these Discovery Channel shows focused on engineering and science: Myth Busters, Deadliest Warrior, etc. are really doing a lot to promote the "cool" side of engineering and what's possible to the up and coming generation. Rock star robot builders--that's progress.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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