Scientists and researchers from Virginia Tech and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) unveiled the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology EXPO in Washington, D.C. this week.
“We set out to build and demonstrate a humanoid capable of mobility aboard a ship, manipulating doors and fire hoses, and equipped with sensors to see and navigate through smoke,” said Dr. Thomas McKenna, ONR program manager for human-robot interaction and cognitive neuroscience. “The long-term goal is to keep Sailors from the danger of direct exposure to fire.”
SAFFiR stands 5 feet 10 inches and weighs 143 pounds. It is equipped with infrared stereo vision and a rotating laser for light detection and ranging (LIDAR) which enables it to see through dense smoke.
“We have taken a look at other kinds of sensors that you can put on these robots,” said McKenna. “For instance, a bipedal robot could be configured to take shipboard measurements, scan for corrosion and leaks, and identify changes to the shape of the room from its original configuration. By taking on these time-consuming tasks, SAFFiR could free up Sailors for jobs that more fully take advantage of their training and technical skillsets.”
The robot will, of course, be commanded via a human interface with a fire team leader and will enable a “hybrid force,” where robots such as SAFFiR supplement an existing fire team.
Watch the following video to see it in action: