Segway-like robot helps fight fires with 3D, thermal imaging

The robotic scout can assemble 3D maps of the interior of burning buildings.

(Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

In 2012, 83 firefighters died in the line of duty in the U.S. alone, and another 37 fatalities have been reported thus far in 2013. But, with better scouting tools, these numbers could be lowered.

Thank goodness for robots.

A new one out of the University of California, San Diego, may soon help first responders survey a fiery scene with its ability to enter a burning building and immediately transmit data on the state and location of the fire, the building’s structural integrity, and the presence of any volatile gases — all while on the lookout for survivors.

The robot, which for ease of reference I’ll call Little Segway, is small, self-righting, can climb stairs, and comes equipped with an infrared camera (to map thermal data) and a pair of stereo RGB cameras (to map visual images that can be converted into a 3D scene). The resulting virtual reality map with temp data can be used in real time by first responders as the bot navigates the building.

The engineers, who are presenting thei… [Read more]

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