US Navy wants an autonomous firefighting robot

Scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have formed an interdisciplinary team to develop a humanoid robot capable of fighting shipboard fires.

In addition to suppressing fires, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) will move autonomously throughout the ship while interacting with relevant crew members.

According to the Navy, SAFFiR will ultimately be capable of navigating the narrow passages and ladderways that are unique to a military ship.

As such, SAFFiR is going to be equipped with an enhanced multi-modal sensor technology, along with a sensor suite that includes a camera, gas sensor, and stereo IR camera.

Meanwhile, the ‘bot’s upper body will be designed to manipulate fire suppressors and deploy propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades. 

But perhaps the most important goal for SAFFiR is the ability to work cohesively as a team with human damage control personnel. And that is why algorithms are already being developed in an effort to allow autonomous mobility and decision making by the robot as a team member. 

To enable natural interaction with a human team leader, the robot is expected to boast multimodal interfaces that will enable the robot to track the focus of attention of the human team leader, as well as to allow the robot to understand and respond to gestures, such as pointing and hand signals. Where appropriate, natural language may also be incorporated, as well as other modes of communication and supervision.