Austin Fire Department Welcomes Robots
The future is closer than you may think. While many of us are living more like the Jetson’s than Little House on the Prairie, we still possess the ability to be amazed and impressed. The latest in interesting technology? Life-saving robots.
If you were near the Govalle Water Plant on Friday, you may have thought there was a fire. You would have been wrong. Members of the Austin Fire Department’s Robotic Emergency Deployment team were out in full force practicing with their newest employees.
The AFD has been working diligently to perfect their robot-controlling skills in order to save the lives of more people while decreasing the risk to firefighters. Firefighters were practicing hand-eye coordination in order to more effectively control the small robotic life savers. The simple exercise tasked firefighters with “saving” mannequins in different areas of the building, using only remote-control robots to find them.
Supervisors chose the water plant because of its low-light and hindered communication signals. These things are both typical in a real-life emergency scene. Not only did the firefighters have to find the hidden mannequins, but they had to correctly maneuver the robots’ arms to remove PVC pipe laid across the mannequins’ bodies. The pipes had to them be delivered and dropped into buckets placed across the room.
You may make the mistake in thinking that firefighters are doing nothing more than playing an entertaining game. In reality, manipulating the robots is more difficult than one would imagine. Drivers have only the robot’s camera and a small control screen to work with.
According to Lieutenant Greg Pope, practice makes perfect. “We don’t want to get on an emergency scene and be stumbling around trying to figure out how to manipulate these things because minutes matter, seconds matter.”
Not only is AFD working with these life-saving robots today, but they are looking into the possibility of combining on-the-ground robots with aerial technology in the future. So the next time you have to call the fire department for assistance, don’t be surprised if your hero is more metal than muscle.
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