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Robot technology to increase safety for firefighters

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in action

One of our robotics experts, Dr Jacques Penders, is working with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and a number of European partners to develop palm-sized robots, named the Guardians and the Viewfinders, which will soon be the first to enter burning buildings.

It's important that firefighters assess buildings for structural damage, toxic chemicals and other dangers before planning the safest route in and out of the building. This is a risky task that takes up valuable time in an emergency situation.

The Guardians and Viewfinders will assess for structural soundness, dangerous airborne chemicals and locate small but smoke-generating industrial fires. This will help save crucial time marking out a route to the fire or casualties, and, just as importantly, a safe route back to the outside.

Guardians will work in teams to communicate information on potential obstacles and danger from each of their routes back to the firefighters, while Viewfinders will use chemical sensors and video to identify safe locations for fire crew to access the site.

It is hoped the two projects will play a pivotal role in helping to ensure the success of future rescue missions, particularly when the emergency services are faced with highly dangerous or hazardous rescue missions in environments such as industrial warehouses.

It is not like in the movies where rescuers can go straight into a situation and save casualties. As the incident commander I have to ensure the safety of my team first in order to help others.

The creation of these robots will help save time, and assist in the safety assessment of the incident. This is vital time we can then spend in rescuing casualties.

Neil Baugh, station manager, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

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