Robot Scout Finds Fires With 3D Thermal Imaging

By Evan Ackerman

Posted 6 Jun 2013 | 14:48 GMT
We hear about lots of robots that could potentially be used for "search and rescue" or "disaster relief," because that's kind of what you say when you've made a robot that doesn't have a commercial or military application but you still need to come up with some task that it might be useful for. It's much rarer that we see these robots actually performing search and rescue or disaster relief tasks, which is why it's especially nice to see this firefighting robot from UCSD doing something that firefighters would find immediately useful.

The UCSD robot is called FFR for "firefighting robot," although FLR for "firelocating robot" might be more technically correct. The robot uses a stereo camera and a thermal camera to generate 3D pointclouds with thermal overlays, allowing the robot to autonomously generate maps showing hot spots and humans even through smoke. The sensor hardware on board the robots doesn't look especially complex, meaning that the 'bots might ultimately become inexpensive (and replaceable) enough to deploy in swarms. So, instead of running around burning buildings looking for people, firefighters can just deploy a bunch of robots first, and rapidly build up a thermal map telling them where to go.

Incidentally, that nifty stair climbing system is something we first wrote about back in 2009, and it's great to see that it's been turned into something useful. Now, if they'd just give iFling some water balloons, it really could be a firefighting robot.

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Comment by HeliStorm on June 6, 2013 at 10:03am
I would like to take exception to your statement regarding search and rescue, or disaster relief being a catch-all "other," category for robotic systems without commercial benefit. As someone who works in the field, I can say it is not a category to be taken lighlty. There is quite a bit of government money put into disaster relief, and systems to aid in disaster relief. Not to mention the "good," aspects of disaster relief. Two areas where unmanned systems can help is search (rescue may pose a more difficult problem) in situations with high risk to responders. Another area is survey, which is as simple as a mobile camera.
Comment by HeliStorm on June 6, 2013 at 10:05am
Pardon spelling, and grammatical errors. Responding from a mobile device is attrocious.
Comment by Joshua Johnson on June 6, 2013 at 10:21am

I totally agree HeliStorm! That is one part of the this article that I didn't particularly enjoy but the rest of it was pure gold :)  Search and Rescue and disaster relief definitely fall under commercial applications.  I think the writer was more taking a jab at the company who made it, because I think the company who made this usually only sticks to high money making markets like military. 

Comment by HeliStorm on June 6, 2013 at 3:56pm
Joshua, I am sorry for implying this represented your opinion.
Comment by Joshua Johnson on June 6, 2013 at 10:35pm

It's no problem HeliStorm!  I love/enjoy the work you do why haven't you posted anything in awhile?!

Comment by HeliStorm on June 8, 2013 at 3:25pm

My big quad was down thanks to a crash which snapped a carbon fiber boom, shattered a motor mount, and torqued a motor shaft. I had to wait for replacement parts. When they came, I had a yaw problem I couldn't seem to resolve, so I tore down and rebuilt, resolving the problem. Then, within a week, my quad took a swim. Quick thinking on a battery pull, and several days of sitting and drying, and she is flying again, no problems. But, I have been working roughly 60 hour weeks the last 2 weeks as well, which means little time to fly and tinker. Hopefully after next week, my work will go back to more normal.

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