A Segway-like robot has joined the list of devices developed to assist firefighters. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego designed the semi-autonomous Firefighting Robot (FFR) to map the interiors of residential and commercial buildings and take temperature readings to give firefighters a clearer picture of a fire before they enter a burning building.
The robot rides on two wheels. Its stem reaches a few feet high and carries two stereo cameras and other sensors, allowing it to record thermal data and map it on to a 3D scene constructed from images taken by the cameras.
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego have developed a Segway-like autonomous robot that can act as a scout for firefighters in commercial and residential blazes. (Source: University of California-San Diego)
Thomas Bewley, a professor at UCSD and director of its Coordinated Robotics Lab, told us in an email that inexpensive COTS mobile phone cameras give the robot stereo vision. Tamarisk 320 infrared imagers from DRS Technologies record the thermal data. Researchers used a simple, three-motor design to give the robot mobility. Two motors power the main drive wheels for driving and steering in a "Segway-like manner." The third motor lifts the body to overcome obstacles "in what is perhaps best described as an inverse-Slinky-type maneuver."
Researchers plan to equip the robot to analyze gases and other compounds at a fire. "We are also collaborating with UCSD Professor Deli Wang in the development and use of a unique and ingenious electronic nose, built from carbon nanotubes, which can detect and quantify O2, CO2, CO, unburnt hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere as the vehicle moves throughout the structure."
Bewley and his team are working with San Diego firefighters and ATA Engineering to ensure the FFR's thermal and mechanical robustness. Daniel Yang, another member of the research team, told us the collaboration with ATA has provided the team with analysis of the material needed to protect the robot in a burning environment. "Our thermal analysis showed that a two-centimeter-thick composite aralite thermal shield could protect the robot in a room with a three-by-three-meter fire and keep the internal temperature at 61C after three minutes."
Bewley said that, once funding for the project is secured, the FFR could come to market within five years.
I can see it now. A seqway with monster struck wheels. In all seriousness though, I thought I saw a segwa with tracks somewhere. I have seen more and more development of tracks fro anything from tractors to trucks lately.
The Segways have been good for that, jmiller, and now I think there will be more instances of applications of Segways in places where, as you mention, it's hard for people to walk. For things like fires and disaster-recovery--like the rubble of earthquakes--I think they can be adapted in very useful ways.
@jmiller-Segway tours are very popular here in San Francisco. It's almost adorable to see a group of 6-10 adults with bicycles helmets roaming through Golden Gate Park. I've also seen many police officers use them at big events.
Good question, I will have to check on that, Cabe. I can't imagine it would take very long, as it would probably be quite dangerous for the robot to stay in the building for an extended period of time.
Yes, police on Segways are hardly intimidating, jmiller, I agree. I don't live in the U.S. anymore and I don't see anyone on Segways here in Europe, not even recreationally. When I lived in San Francisco there were Segway tours near the bay, but that's really the only place I've seen these machines being used. So I think adapting it for a good use robotically is a great idea.
Unlike industrial robots, which suffered a slight overall slump in 2012, service robots continue to be increasingly in demand. The majority are used for defense, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and agriculture, such as milking robots.
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