With the advent of intelligent equipment, robots can undertake a lot of tasks in life-threatening environments instead of humans. This is evident especially in the firefighting and rescue field. Intelligent robot platforms can help the fire crew to enhance safety and reduce the risk factors in dangerous situations.
Since 2006, CITIC Heavy Industries Co. Ltd (CITIC HIC) started developing a special robot to address this issue. The explosion-proof firefighting and scouting robot is designed and certified for fire-extinguishing and reconnaissance in explosive environments. It is intended to operate in petrochemical refining, fuel depots and chemical warehouses.
1. The components of the firefighting robot platform
The explosion-proof firefighting and scouting robot uses a caterpillar-tracked platform and consists of the robot platform, image and data-acquisition device, water cannon and remote-control box.
1.1 Robot platform
The tracked platform is the main part of the robot and is the body on to which all other components are mounted. All the integrated electronic elements and other devices that need to be isolated are housed in an explosion-proof enclosure, which is designed with only two through holes for the driveshaft on each side. All the other mounting holes are blinded, with explosion-proof materials used for the shafts. The enclosure uses compartmental design to separate elements such as the motor and gear reducer, which heat up during operation, from electrical control elements to ensure their performance won’t be affected.
There are four main moving types of robot: wheel type, legged type, wheel-legged type and tracked type. Due to the complex ground conditions found at fire scenes, as well as the relatively large recoil during spraying, the firefighting robot uses tracks to ensure the best performance. The tracks are made of flame-retardant rubber, supported by steel cord and steel skeleton, giving high strength and toughness. In order to ensure the robot can travel steadily, an advanced independent suspension system is employed.
1.2 Water cannon
The water cannon is the core component of the robot, with different types of canon available for use in different situations. The parameters of the current installed monitor are as below:
- Material: cannon body is made of 304 stainless steel; cannon head is made of hard-anodized aluminium alloy;
- Working pressure: 10–12 bar recommended;
- Maximum flow: 80L/s;
- Range: 88m (@12 bar);
- Rotation and pitch angle: Horizontal -30° to +30°, Vertical 0° to +85°;
- Rotational speed: Horizontal 24°/s, Vertical 10°/s;
- Extinguishing type: Switch freely between water mode and foam mode.
1.3 Image and data-acquisition device
When the robot accesses the fire scene to collect important gas data, especially for toxic gas, different height levels may have different gas concentrations, so this particular firefighting robot is designed with an extendable image and data-acquisition device. This consists of an explosion-proof housing, motor, drag chains and the image and data-acquisition device itself.
1. explosion-proof housing
3. drag chains
4. image and data-acquisition device
The explosion-proof housing can not only withstand the pressure and flames generated by an explosion of mixed gases but can also prevent any internal sparks from igniting the external gas, so ensuring the safety of the fire scene. The main housing is integrated with the robot shell cover to form a plane flameproof surface. Opening the shell cover reveals the lifting mechanism, which comprises an electric motor, transmission gear, screw, lifting rod and limit switch. The limit switch is installed at the upper and lower position of the housing. The data-acquisition device is equipped with explosion-proof infrared cameras (front and back), multi-gas data collector, pickups and power indicator.
1.4 Remote-control box
The remote-control box is the command centre and control core of the firefighting robot, and it is composed mainly of the data processor, wireless terminal, display and operation panel. The data processor is the heart of the control terminal and is responsible for the processing of data and control command. The operator sends instructions to the robot through the control panel, which can remotely control the robot’s movement, data collection and operation of the water cannon. According to the specific site conditions, the robot body can be controlled to move and rotate to approach the target, the rotation and pitch adjustment of the water cannon can be controlled when extinguishing the fire, and the expansion of the water cannon head can be adjusted to change the spray pattern between columnar water and scattered water. The height and pitch angle of the camera are adjusted by using the lifting rod to observe the surroundings in real time. The robot’s remote-control box can display real-time HD video through line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight monitoring via wireless transmission. At the same time, the robot itself can transmit all parameters and signals collected from the fire scene to the control terminal to help operators make scientific and operational judgments.
2. Function of the firefighting robot
The robot has a network communication function, which can connect to the internet, transfer data and provide reliable data to the command centre.
Remote diagnosis functions
Remote diagnosis and malfunction analysis can be carried out through the robot’s network connection.
Environment acquisition (optional)
Integrated gas detecting devices to detect the gases distributed at different heights. (Radioactive substances detection is optional)
Heat eye detection (optional)
Tracking and monitoring of heat sources via infrared thermal imaging.
Automatic power generation and restrain recoil
To restrain recoil, the robot’s driving motors are specially designed and can automatically change from driving mode to generating mode, thus charging the battery while water being is being sprayed.
The robot can relay sound from the site in real time to aid rescue.
Real-time scene images are collected via three cameras and then transmitted to the control box. The images include adjustable front, back and monitor-tracking view.
Automatic obstacle avoidance
The obstacle avoidance system enables the robot to recognize and negotiate unexpected obstacles automatically.
The robot has a remote-control range of up to 1km due to its advanced communication technology and uses dual-channel transmission for data and video.
The robot can tow a full-sized rescue truck in and out of the site and can carry rescued people out of the hazardous area.
In November 2018, Engytech signed the distribution agreement with CITIC HIC and officially became the nationwide general agent for this series of special robot in Australia.
For more information, go to www.engytech.com.au