Fighting fires was always dangerous. But with climate change, there have been more wildfires, which means even more risky rescue missions for local firefighting squads. That’s why multiple different companies and teams of scientists are working to develop robots that can scope out burning buildings before human firefighters have to enter. The latest entrant is , a remote-controlled robot that can withstand temperatures as high as 650 degrees Celsius. At that scalding temperature, a firefighter wearing a protective suit can only withstand about 15 minutes of exposure.
FireBot, which can be operated for four hours at a time, looks like an object straight out of a sci-fi film. With its saw-like “arms” that help the metallic boxy device move, the bot can climb obstacles in its path using tracks that allow it to climb stairs and debris – a requirement for navigating raging fires. According to , which hosted FireBot’s parent company at in San Francisco this week, the bot uses MIMO wireless technology that can transfer data to a receiver as far as 0.9 miles away. That way, a crew can safely examine the inside of a burning building while using a joystick and display to maneuver the bot.
The device has built-in sensors that include HD optical and thermal imagers, as well as various mechanisms to detect dangerous gasses. In addition, it can check for the presence of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, which are the two deadliest fumes that can injure or kill humans in a fire. Also importantly, the device is seemingly fast despite its boxy appearance. The FireBot can move twice as fast as a firefighter wearing full personal protective equipment that can, on average, be as heavy as .
The robot is expected to cost at least $90,000 when it goes on sale in the third quarter of 2024. Alternatively, fire departments could lease it. Although this device isn’t exactly cheap, it can help alleviate the annual fees associated with firefighter injuries, which is estimated to cost fire departments , according to a paper the National Fire Protection Association published in late 2019.
The FireBot is not the first device that uses robotics to make firefighting safer. Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory are developing what’s known as , or the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot. The bi-pedal humanoid robot is being engineered to navigate ships, interact with people, and use thermal imaging to identify and handle a hose to
When Engadget covered the Navy’s robot back in 2019, SAFFiR was still not water- and fire-proof, which may be why the its more advanced prototypes are still in the experimental stages of R&D. Similarly, there’s , a disaster-response robot that hosts an infrared and a rotating light detection and ranging (LIDAR) laser that allows it to navigate dense smoke. Still, nothing is as seemingly advanced as Paradigm’s FireBot in terms of being able to withstand and navigate heat at fire scenes.
In a similar vein, the Los Angeles Fire Department even experimented with that can aid in scope and rescue missions as well as a ridiculously large . That robot costs $272,000, making the FireBot seem almost reasonable by comparison.