Take the Thermite RS3, built by Kansas-based Textron. This chunky bit of kit this week became the first robotic firefighting vehicle to enter service in the U.S.
Deployed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD), the RS3 is about the size of a small car and tips the scales at 3,500 pounds.
Cameras on the robot send live video to the remote operator as the machine pumps out 2,500 gallons of water a minute onto any blaze that its set loose on. It also features a plow on the front that allows it to push objects out of the way, or into safer locations, while tackling a fire.
The RS3 is transported atop a trailer and can travel at speeds of up to 8 mph once offloaded. The video above shows it in action during testing earlier this year.
And the robot has already been put to work, clearing debris inside a burning building so that LAFD firefighters could move more freely as they responded to a call on Tuesday.
“New challenges continue to emerge in the fire service and the LAFD is committed to leveraging technology to enhance firefighting operations while reducing risk to firefighters,” the fire department said in an article announcing its newest recruit.
“While the RS3 is not the answer to all types of firefighting, it will assist with safe interior fire operations on large commercial fires, wood-framed structures under construction, structural defense at wildfires, large animal rescues, fuel tanker fires, auto storage fires, and much more.”
The firefighting robot will be stationed at Fire Station 3 in downtown Los Angeles as a part of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.
The RS3 isn’t the first robot we’ve seen geared toward assisting firefighters in their often challenging work.
Earlier this year, for example, we heard about Estonian company Milrem Robotics, which has been working on the Multiscope Rescue robot that can perform similar tasks to the RS3.
There’s also Colossus, built by French tech firm Shark Robotics. The rugged robot, which comes with a remotely operated water cannon and a high-definition multipurpose camera, made headlines in 2019 after it was deployed during the huge fire that devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
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