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Australia built a $225K robotic water cannon to keep human firefighters out of harm’s way

A new firefighting robot is being tested in New South Wales, Australia as an official part of the area’s high-tech arsenal of Fire & Rescue equipment. The TAF 20 robot, as it’s called, accomplishes a range of heavy duty Fire & Rescue services, but instead of replacing human firefighters, it exists to supplement them and keep keep them safer.

TAF, in case you’re curious, is short for Turbine Aided Firefighting — the innovative new technique that the machine uses to fight fires. Italian engineering and German firefighting firms collaborated to create the robot, and it cost the state of New South Wales almost US $225,000 to build and deploy. It’s definitely quite impressive though, as the robot can spray either water or foam to put out fires at a distance of 197 feet, and more forceful jets of water can be triggered from 295 feet away. TAF 20 also features a bulldozer attachment that’s capable of clearing away heavy debris or even cars from the scene of a fire.

On top of that, TAF 20’s high-powered turbine atomizes large quantities of water into a fine mist before it his the burn site. This causes a greater cooling effect over a larger surface area, and also helps disperse smoke and soot particles, which makes the job easier and safer for human rescue teams.

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Earlier in December, Australia saw the TAF 20 in action for the first time, when it was used to put out a factory fire in Botany, Sydney. “This puts [Fire & Rescue New South Wales] firefighters ahead of the game when it comes to managing hazardous fires and other emergencies where firefighters cannot safely approach the flames, for example when there is a danger of explosion,” said David Elliott, Minister for Emergency Services.

Fire & Rescue New South Wales has large goals for implementing the robot’s use more widely. For example, bushfire season poses a threat in much of Australia as summer temperatures across the dry land climb dangerously high. Because TAF 20 can be operated remotely from up to 500 meters away, it allows the Fire & Rescue team to neutralize dangerous situations without recklessly putting their firefighters in harm’s way.