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Robotics Technology

London's Robotic Fire Brigade 82

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 icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:36PM (#28860111)

    Its the same platform type police have been using for years now.

    Nothing new here, other than the uniform of the operators.

    Is it really a robot when its driven and operated by a remote human? It has no autonomous functionality.

  • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) * on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:42PM (#28860163) Homepage

    I agree... plus where is the asbestos armor ?

    It looks like this robot components would melt pretty quickly in presence of fire ;-))

  • by CorporateSuit ( 1319461 ) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:54PM (#28860281)

    If it doesn't make decisions for itself at all it is technically not a robot.

    Is this some reference or joke I'm not aware of? Current robots never make their own decisions. The manufacturing industry would be absolute havoc if robots decided what and how they wanted to do every day.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:10PM (#28860409)
    I don't think the public, at least in the US, would be willing to accept a robot that could actually make its own decisions. We'll accept things that can choose how precisely to stay upright or how exactly to best handle air currents in flight, but much beyond that would tend to freak people out.

    Sort of on top of that, I think there's a huge amount of work necessary to actually have a robot that can properly tackle a building fire.
  • Broke regulator (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:40PM (#28860627)

    It is awesome to seeing robots being used for peaceful purposes. That said, this looks like your typical military contractor--over budget and delivering substantially less than possible. Seriously, why do you need that many different robots? I can understand a couple--but that many seems overly complicated.

    Did anyone else notice in the movie, when the robot set the cylinder down, it broke the regulator off? If it'd been charged, that would have created a quite avoidable mess.

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:11PM (#28860799) Homepage

    It's not that the containers cause fires (though I would guess the welding torches fed from them do from time to time), it's that properties catch fire for a whole number of reasons and those properties sometimes contain gas cylinders (of which acetelene is the nastiest common one but even things like butane and propane can be pretty nasty). Furthermore until the fire brigade can contact the owner they often don't know if cylinders are present and if so what they contain.

  • by shervinemami ( 1270718 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @02:10AM (#28862787) Homepage
    It's not like there is an official meaning of the word Robot that has been clearly defined for hundreds of years. Basically if people want to call it a robot then its a robot. I've built both autonomous and human controlled robots before and even if there's no autonomous functionality at all in a robot, it can still have a lot of similar problems to autonomous robots, which is why its generally classified as a robot, as opposed to "machine" or "remotely operated vehicle".

    I mean you wouldn't call a computer printer a robot, even though it has a level of autonomy and motors and sensors and feedback loops and embedded processor, but if it was in a factory and was 10 times larger and had a plastic cutting tool instead of a ink dropping tool, then some people would call it a factory robot.

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