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Robotics Technology

London's Robotic Fire Brigade 82

Posted by kdawson
from the playing-with-fire dept.
dustpan writes "The BBC has a story up about a quartet of robotic fire fighters that the London Fire Brigade is testing and with which have been achieving 'tremendous results.' The robots were developed by QinetiQ, which is a defense contractor. The LFB has been testing the units since last year and the machines are primarily used in fires involving acetylene canisters. The group commander for hazardous materials and environmental protection with the LFB says that the robots have cut the time to resolve these potential hazards from 24 hours to 3. From the article: 'Three years ago we were shutting down parts of London for over 24 hours every other week. Now it doesn't even make the news.'"
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London's Robotic Fire Brigade

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  • by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:09PM (#28860401) Homepage Journal

    Also I suspect it suffers from the 'Dalek problem'...it can't climb stairs. I assume that this is not too much of a problem as most acetylene cylinders are probably kept at ground level. Certainly if it keeps Firefighters safer, it must be a good thing.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:20PM (#28860479) Homepage

    The LFB has been testing the units since last year and the machines are primarily used in fires involving acetylene canisters. The group commander for hazardous materials and environmental protection with the LFB says that the robots have cut the time to resolve these potential hazards from 24 hours to 3. From the article: 'Three years ago we were shutting down parts of London for over 24 hours every other week.

    Apparently there are a lot of rogue acetylene canisters catching fire in London on a regular basis. I weld as a hobby and in all the welding shops I've been in, in all the classes, I've never seen an acetylene tank go off. And with all the welders I've ever met in all those places, maybe one has ever seen a tank go off. Is it something with your gauges over there? The tank construction? Seems to happen a lot more there than it does here.

    Acetylene is nothing you want to dick with. If it gets away from you, then I'd sure want a robot going in to deal with it. [youtube.com]

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:21PM (#28860863)

    This sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it; thanks to Google Books [google.com] I'm remembering a pretty cool section in Robot Builder's Bonanza [amazon.com] on DIY robot firefighters, building up simple circuits to ever more capable, fire-detection systems, control schemes, and automatically controlled extinguishing apparatus.

    Obviously not quite the same thing, but it was pretty cool when I read it, and so I'm taking this opportunity to plug the awesomeness of building DIY firefighting robots. =]

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:37PM (#28860957)

    I recently went to an open day at the Joint European Tours near Oxford the UK. It's the world's biggest fusion reactor currently in service, and one of only a few of it's kind that can run on a mix of deuterium-tritium fuel. It can get highly radioactive, so they use some very impressive robots.

    The machines they use are in a class all their own. They're huge, high precision machines that can be used on the outside of the tokamak, suspended from a telescoping boom riding on a gantry, and also has a snake like boom to access the inside of the tokamak. It's got human arm-like end effectors, can carry several tons, and supplies force feedback to the operators. They also have lots of what looks like fancy motion planning software to help out.

    However the scientist leading the tour didn't look like the type to suffer fools gladly and got a little testy with me, because they're not actually robots. They're "remote handling systems".. and apparently there's a difference between a 'robot' and a 'remote handling system'. He implied, but didn't actually say that very little work with these machines would be automated (too complicated, robots crashing into stuff left lying around be technicians is apparently a bad thing around anything nuclear.

    So there you go: as long as there's always a human in the loop, apparently it isn't a robot.

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