Final demonstration of EU-funded firefighting robots

Published:  21 January, 2010

Robotics experts from Sheffield Hallam University have been working with firefighters from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue to showcase a unique group of firefighting robots.

Researchers say the robots, called Guardians and Viewfinders, could revolutionise the way fire-fighters work.

Funded by the European Union, the Guardians are a 'swarm' of autonomous robots that can navigate and search urban areas like warehouses and factories.

The robots carry laser-range, radio-signal and ultrasound sensors. They can be used to assist search and rescue during large scale incidents, for example warehouse fires and chemical spills.

Dr Jacques Penders, from Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Automation and Robotics Research, said: "The Guardian robots navigate autonomously and accompany a traditional human firefighter. They connect to a wireless ad-hoc network and forward data to the human operator and the control station.

"The Guardians warn for toxic chemicals and provide mobile communication links with human firefighters.

"Viewfinders autonomously navigate through and inspect an area, but human operators can monitor their operations as well as control their movements if needed.

"The interface ensures the human firefighters get a good, relevant overview of the ground and the robots and human rescue workers inside."

A demonstration of the firefighting robots was held at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Training and Development Centre in Handsworth, Sheffield.

Station Manager Neil Baugh, from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, said: "Searching through industrial fires is time consuming and dangerous. Toxins may be present and human senses can be severely impaired, leading to disorientation."

Dr Penders will open Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Automation and Robotics Research (CARR) on 22 January 2010. The Guardians and Viewfinders will form part of the opening ceremony.

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