Firefighters get hi-tech help from robotarium

SCOTTISH firefighters are testing new kit from the National Robotarium that could help them find casualties faster.

The equipment, which sits on top of standard helmets, could also keep firefighters safer.

The technology includes thermal cameras, radar, and motion sensors.

Data is then fed to a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI), which provides feedback to firefighters and their commanders.

The technology is being developed by the National Robotarium, which opened its new building today at Heriot-Watt University on the edge of Edinburgh.

Chris Lu, lecturer in cyber-physical systems at the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the project, said: “Firefighters often operate in environments with very low or no visibility due to the vast amount of smoke released from a fire.

“This can make detecting the location of potential victims and whereabouts of firefighters very challenging in situations that are often extremely time-sensitive.

“This new technology has the potential to support on-the-ground firefighters and scene commanders to make crucial in-the-moment decisions that can enhance search rescue efficiency, ensure safer collaboration between teammates and, most importantly, improve outcomes for potential victims of fire scenes.

“Our entire sensor rig weighs less than a kilogram and is composed of affordable, off-the-shelf components that can be easily retrofitted to existing standard-issue firefighting helmets.

“This means it has the potential to be an incredibly efficient and accessible resource to fire and rescue teams in Scotland, the UK and beyond once fully developed.”

Lu added: “Our next ambition is to give the helmet the ability to generate three-dimensional (3D) maps and an embedded display, which will provide the wearer with even more spatial awareness.

“We are actively looking to engage with industry partners to help make this next step a reality.”

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