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.
@Jack- Apparently the engineers at the University of California's Robotics Lab have heard you and have outfitted their robot with thermal cameras to map-out 3D scenes in rooms that are on fire, giving fire fighters the perfect picture of where to go.
I'm not a firefighter, so this might be totally off the wall, but isn't one of the techniques going after the hot spots. What if a robot like this was equipped with an IR camera and could semi-autonomously address the areas most in need?
MRDON--I agree completely. I have an uncle who retired as a firefighter and it is definitely one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Any robotic mechanism or system that can remove some of the danger would be welcomed by them. I can also see systems such as these being very effective combined with SWAT teams and law enforcement teams. The engineering would be well worth the effort. Beth, great post.
If you can make an inventor/engineer's zest to create and develop a robot as "sexy" and cutting edge as chronicling an Olympic athlete's training plan or a rock star's rise to fame, you've scored in terms of exposing our youth to the positives of this profession. Think about what Discovery's Deadliest Catch did for elevating the dangerous and often unglamourous job of king crab fishing in the Bering Straits.
Hey Beth, These robots are pretty cool and the fact their designers are young engineers, is what's needed to motivate the new generation of technologists to pursue careers in engineering and science. Positive representation of young adults, like the Howe Brothers, help kids dream with big with imaginations and create cool machines like these awesome firefighting robots. Agreed, Discovery Channel does a pretty good job illustrating the coolness of engineering with the MythBusters and the Howe brother's robotics TV documentary.
Hi Charles, I agree, these robotic vehicles are awesome. The use of robots to assist in fire fighting is a definite welcome in removing humans from performing dangerous jobs. Design News is a definitely leader in reporting unique and cool robotics applications. Nice work Elizabeth!!
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