A robot firefighter capable of walking or climbing in the manner of human sailors would present a huge advantage over one of today’s military robots — which rely upon wheels or tanklike treads — in operating in the cramped quarters of warships. But the U.S. military also has set its sights on “other potential warfighting applications” in choosing to create a humanoid robot, according to the Naval Research Laboratory.
The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR), which is still 18 months away from being tested, would not only battle flames on its own, but work together with sailors. It would follow the gaze of a human leader, respond to hand signals and even obey voice commands.
An infrared camera could allow such a robot to see through smoke-filled hallways, and perhaps it could detect the location of fires through gas sensors. The robot’s battery is intended to pack enough energy for half an hour of firefighting action.
The Navy’s planned robot builds upon the design of a humanoid CHARLI-L1 robot already created by Virginia Tech. Researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania continue to work with the Naval Research Laboratory on its more ambitious goals.
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