2010. A successful completion of a cutting-edge project ViewFinder. The project built an autonomous robotic system to establish ground safety in the event of a fire. It helps to gather data (visual and chemical) to assist fire rescue personnel. The Viewfinder robots use chemical sensors and video cameras to map safe locations for the crew to access in partially destroyed industrial sites, after events such as explosions.


The VIEW-FINDER project (2006-2010) is a European Union FP6 'Advanced Robotics' project, consisting of nine European partners, including South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services, that seeks to use an autonomous robotic system to establish ground safety in the event of a fire. Its primary aim is to gather data (visual and chemical) to assist fire rescue personnel. A base station will combine gathered information with information retrieved from the large scale GMES-information bases.

This project will address key issues related to map building and reconstruction, interfacing local command information with external sources, human-robot interfaces and autonomous robot navigation. The project is coordinated by MERI at Sheffield Hallam University.

The developed VIEW-FINDER system will be a complete semi-autonomous system; the individual robot-sensors operate autonomously within the limits of the task assigned to them, that is, they will autonomously navigate through and inspect an area. Central Operation Control (COC) will assign tasks to the robots and just monitor their execution. However Central Operation Control has the means to renew task assignments or detail tasks of an individual robot. System-human interactions at the COC will be facilitated through multi modal interfaces, in which graphical displays play an important but not exclusive role.

Although the robots are basically able to operate autonomously, human operators will be enabled to monitor their operations and send high level task requests as well as low level commands through the interface to any nodes in the entire system. The human interface has to ensure the human supervisor and human interveners are provided a reduced but good and relevant overview of the ground and the robots and human rescue workers therein.

Project management

Coordinating team
  • Project coordinator: Dr. Jacques Penders, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Project co-coordinator: Dr Bala Amavasai, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Project secretary: Dr Rosemary Booth, Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield Hallam University personnel and expertise
  • Dr Lyuba Alboul, machine vision and robot swarms
  • Dr. Bala Amavasai, robot swarms and machine vision
  • Dr Georgios Chliveros, probabilistic robotic mapping
  • Laurence Ellison, robot swarms
  • Dr Alan Holloway, sensors
  • Dr Alexei Nabok, sensors
  • Dr Amirmohammad Naghsh, human-computer-interface
  • Dr Jacques Penders, mobile robots and robot swarms
  • Dr Chris Roast, human computer-interface
  • Anna Tsargorodskaya, sensors

Project partners

Coodinator - Sheffield Hallam University, Microsystems and Machine Vision Laboratory, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Academic research partners

  • Royal Military Academy - Patrimony, Belgium
  • Eidikos Logariasmos Erevnon Dimokriteiou Panepistimiou Thrakis, Greece
  • Universita Degli Studi di Roma 'La Sapienza', Italy
  • Przemyslowy Instytut Automatyki I Pomiarow, Poland

Industrial partners

  • Space Applications Services, Belgium
  • Galileo Avionica - S.P.A., Italy
  • Intelligence for Environment and Security SRL-IES Solutions SRL, Italy
  • South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, United Kingdom

In the news

  • Innovations Report, Germany - Firefighter's guardian angel is a palm size robot
  • Yorkshire Post, UK - Hi-tech miniature robots set to be latest firefighting recruits
  • Science Museum London - Robots to the rescue

Related documents

Collected news items (PDF, 691.9KB)

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