Feature: Fighting fire with robots - Testing Mumbai Fire Brigade's latest gizmo

    The Mumbai Fire Brigade now has two clever devices in its arsenal. Here's a close look.

    Published On Oct 27, 2022 08:00:00 AM


    High-rise buildings in congested lanes are commonplace, especially in a city like Mumbai. And such situations pose increased challenges for safety agencies like the Mumbai Fire Brigade, which has to constantly update its arsenal of special-purpose vehicles. While several of these vehicles are large and help firefighters reach higher structures, the fire brigade team also deploys a smaller, just as important vehicle that serves specific purposes. Meet Robofire, Mumbai Fire Brigade’s unique firefighting aid.

    Robofire robot

    Robofire can reach a top speed of 5.4kph.

    Robofire, as the name suggests, is a remote-controlled, battery-operated robot that measures less than 2 metres in length, is around 1 metre high, and about 800mm wide. But don’t go by its relatively compact dimensions, as this innovative device rolls on tank-like treads, also known as caterpillar tracks, which help it crawl over uneven and rough surfaces, and even stairs. Constructed from a mix of aluminium and other metals, Robofire weighs around 500kg. It has a dedicated vehicle to transport it to the fire affected location, and once on its own power, it can reach speeds of around 5.4kph.

    Its multiple cameras have infrared, thermal sensors.

    Robofire can be connected to a water hose from a tanker, and can reach locations a regular fire engine would find difficult during firefighting operations. It can also operate in areas filled with dense smoke and fumes, which can be extremely difficult to access by first responders. Robofire can ‘see’ via its four rotating cameras, which also have thermal imaging capability.

    Remote control doubles up as camera display.

    The real-time feed from these cameras can be seen by Robofire’s operator who wears a tablet-sized controller with a large screen. These cameras and the software can also detect the amount of smoke and damage, and locate trapped people in need of rescue. Robofire can be controlled from a radius of up to 1km, thanks to its high-power infrared remote control! We were invited to participate in a small demonstration of Robofire’s tech and capabilities, and were amazed with what it could do.

    Water Tower vehicle

    After Robofire, the next device demonstrated was on the other end of the size spectrum – the Water Tower vehicle. This vehicle is based on a Mercedes Actros chassis and costs a whopping Rs 12 crore (approximately). When in operation, the Water Tower vehicle anchors itself to the ground, like other bigger fire engines or cranes, and then unfolds an ‘arm’ vertically to a maximum height of 55 metres, which is roughly 18 floors. With the help of hydraulics, the water arm can reach fire-affected areas even if the Water Tower vehicle is parked at a distance; it can also help douse fires in high-rises.

    The Water Tower vehicle can empty its 14,000-litre tank in just 5 minutes, if required.

    This water arm is also flexible enough to reach 36 metres below ground level in a pit. The Water Tower vehicle has a massive 50 metres water throw area, and can empty a 14,000-litre water tanker in just 5 minutes, if required. The vehicle can connect to multiple water tankers, so that it can throw water uninterrupted for a longer time. Once the core area of the fire is identified, this device can extinguish the flames in minimal time.

    Hemant Parab, the Chief Fire Officer of Mumbai Fire Brigade, says, "At Mumbai Fire Brigade, our team is well-trained and our fleet of vehicles is well-equipped to tackle almost any type of fire emergencies in the city." The Mumbai Fire Brigade has not only been upgrading its fleet but is also constantly revising the safety gear of the firefighters. It is truly fascinating to see how far firefighting technology has come and how much safer these newer gadgets have made firefighting for our brave heroes in blue.

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.


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