Team to show fire-fighting robots

Sheffield-Hallam University is heading a pan-European project aimed at developing intelligent robots to assist fire fighters in hazardous buildings and expects demonstrate its designs on 18 January.

The Guardians project team has completed three years of research and will unveil its results at the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue training centre in Sheffield. 

Project coordinator Jacques Penders said that a number of technical difficulties meant that developing a single robot had proven impractical for use in risk assessment during realistic fire-fighting scenarios.

‘In the beginning, we thought that one system was doable, but what we underestimated was the problem of smoke,’ added Penders. ‘A number of our robots have laser-range scanners. However, used alone they are unable to provide the data needed for fire-fighting situations.’

As a result, the team has designed a range of six robot models for undertaking risk assessment in various scenarios ranging from smoke-filled industrial warehouses to chemical spills. 

These robots carry individualised laser-range, radio-signal and ultrasound sensors that are designed for the specific tasks of either the warning of toxic materials, providing and maintaining mobile communication links or infering localisation information.

Penders hopes to secure further funding to continue the research and believes that, with industrial support, the team could create a single system able to integrate all of these capabilities within the next two years.