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Firefighting Robots Go Autonomous

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RS3 robotic vehicle demonstration

The Thermite RS3 robotic vehicle demonstrated by the Los Angeles City Fire Department can blast 2,500 gallons of water a minute.

Credit: Associated Press

The tradition-bound firefighting profession is poised for an influx of eccentric assistants. They range from contraptions the size of a toy wagon to two-ton beasts that resemble military tanks and can blast out 2,500 gallons of water per minute. Some move on rubber tires, some on steel tracks, and some fly. All are robots.

The high-tech devices can enter burning buildings too hot for human survival. They can penetrate smoke too toxic for human lungs. They are often faster, stronger, and more agile than the firefighters they work with. Most of the machines currently in use are remote-controlled, but researchers are now developing "intelligent" firefighting robots that can make decisions autonomously.

Researchers are working to change institutional reluctance to invest in devices tailored to meet varying niche needs.

From Scientific American
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