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These autonomous firefighting drones are equipped with foam blasters

One of the best use cases for robots is carrying out tasks in situations where it would be too dangerous for humans to set foot. With that in mind, there has been a big uptick in recent years in robotic solutions designed to help fight fires using various high-tech autonomous approaches. The latest company to throw its hat into this particular ring is Chinese drone manufacturer EHang.

The company recently debuted footage of its rapid responder 216F firefighter drone, which uses machine vision to locate blazes in action, launches a laser-guided projectile to deliver a fire-extinguisher “bomb” through the windows, and then hovers outside the burning building spraying foam. It’s pretty darn impressive.

“We are pleased to introduce the EHang 216F AAV aerial firefighting solution, which solves difficult challenges in high-rise firefighting,” Huazhi Hu, EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “The high-rise fire use case highlights the practical application of our passenger-grade [aerial autonomous vehicle or AAV] platform to different smart city management needs. The potential of our intelligent AAV technology platform is boundless.”

Each 216F drone can carry some 150 liters of firefighting foams, alongside six of the fire-extinguishing projectiles. They have a maximum flight altitude of 600 meters and can reportedly be dispatched within a 5 kilometer radius. Multiple drones can be dispatched in a swarm to put out high-rise fires in the event that one drone is not enough for the job. They can be dispatched remotely as first responders before the more traditional firefighting service arrives, thereby shortening response times and, hopefully, reducing casualties in the process.

Given the massive number of high-rise buildings in many Chinese cities, this sounds like a great solution to a really challenging problem. The drone firefighters should be capable of servicing a great many of these without the risk of, for instance, getting stuck in busy traffic en route to the blaze. In addition to the Chinese market, EHang could also expand use of its drones internationally.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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