In recent years, fires have become a real nightmare for western U.S. state California, with billions of dollars in damage, thousands of homes burned, and hundreds of deaths. However, despite the colossal efforts of local and federal authorities, it has not yet been possible to cope with the fire element.
Recently, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) welcomed a new member of the team – the first robotic firefighting vehicle – on board for its first day on duty. Named Thermite RS3, it is a compact, low-center of gravity, wide chassis, industrial robotic firefighting vehicle capable of flowing 2,500 gallons of water per minute.
Developed by the robotic firm Textron, the robotic firefighter weighs 3500 lbs (around 1600 kg) and can reach a speed of 8 mph (13 km/h). The Thermite RS3 is powered by a 36-horsepower diesel engine that lasts up to 20 hours per tank. The water supply hose can be extended 300 feet (91 meters) horizontally or 150 feet (45 meters) vertically.
In front of the robotic vehicle, there is a plow blade that is necessary for overcoming and clearing debris and various obstacles. It is remotely operated with a controller that provides high-definition video feedback for ultimate maneuverability in difficult conditions. The robot costs $272,000 per unit.
The Los Angeles Fire Department says it could enhance the firefighting operations while reducing risk to firefighters. While the RS3 is not the answer to all types of firefighting, it will assist with safe interior fire operations on large commercial fires, wood-framed structures under construction, structural defense at wildfires, large animal rescues, fuel tanker fires, auto storage fires, and much more.
The Thermite RS3 went into operation even before it was presented to the public on Tuesday (13). That morning it joined 130 firefighters in fighting a fire that destroyed two buildings near Dodger Stadium to fight a fire that engulfed two Fashion District buildings in the city’s downtown core. During the operation, it helped clear debris inside the building where the fire broke out.