Navy is designing a robot firefighter

SAFFiRThe U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is working on the design of a robot that would suppress shipboard fires.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by the NRL March 7, 2012:


“…The firefighting robot, called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR), is being designed to move autonomously throughout the ship, interact with people, and fight fires, handling many of the dangerous firefighting tasks that are normally performed by humans. The humanoid robot should be able to maneuver well in the narrow passages and ladderways that are unique to a ship and challenging for most older, simpler robots to navigate.

The robot is designed with enhanced multi-modal sensor technology for advanced navigation and a sensor suite that includes a camera, gas sensor, and stereo IR camera to enable it to see through smoke. Its upper body will be capable of manipulating fire suppressors and throwing propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades. It is battery powered that holds enough energy for 30 minutes of firefighting. Like a sure-footed sailor, the robot will also be capable of walking in all directions, balancing in sea conditions, and traversing obstacles.

Another key element of the SAFFiR development is to allow damage control personnel and the robot to work cohesively as a team. Algorithms are being developed 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 will have 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.

Researchers from Virginia Tech and University of Pennsylvania are also working with NRL on the project. They plan to test the firefighting robot in a realistic firefighting environment onboard the ex-USS Shadwell in late September 2013.”


Judging from the video below uploaded to YouTube in September, 2013, this robot is not going to be fighting fires any time soon.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Navy is designing a robot firefighter”

  1. As a former “graduate” of several Navy firefighting refresher courses, I’m all for anything that can help with the task. But you’re right, the robot certainly doesn’t look like it’s ready for prime time.

  2. Seems like an unlikelihood. And probably an expensive one. Reminds me of the robots used in the Ukraine to clear the roof on the reactor building of radioactive graphite. The robots could not stand the radiation and Bio-robots had to be used.

    I believe they actually called the men Bio-robots.


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