A new robotic ally will soon be joining the Dallas Fire-Rescue team, taking on the task of fighting fires in high-risk situations.
Using $470,000 in federal taxpayer money, Dallas City Hall is purchasing a remote-controlled Howe & Howe Technologies Thermite robotic firefighter, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Howe & Howe Technologies claims its product is “the first commercial firefighting robot to be sold” in the United States and “one of the most capable, durable firefighting robots” currently available. The manufacturer offers four variations of the robot unit, each equipped with different configurations of firefighting technology.
“Designed to mitigate life-threatening situations, these tools provide fire suppression, situational awareness, and intelligence gathering to first responders,” the company’s website explains. “Operated by remote belly-pack controllers, users are provided a real-time video feed allowing them to traverse hazardous terrain and push obstacles from their path while withstanding extreme elements.”
Dallas Fire-Rescue’s robotic unit, which reportedly comes standard with a water turret and camera, will be customized with a ventilator fan and extra cameras, including thermal imaging. The top-mounted fan can be driven right up to a burning building to push away gases and smoke, explained Lt. Stephen Spencer, a Dallas Fire-Rescue special operations logistics expert, per the DMN.
The robotic unit can also be adapted with devices to assist with managing hazardous materials from a safe distance. The unit is strong enough to clear debris out of its path and can even push cars out of the way, Spencer said.
“This is basically a tank with a plow on the front,” Spencer told the DMN.
He said that Dallas Fire-Rescue could deploy the unit in emergency situations, such as train derailments, which could be dangerous for human personnel to approach with a hand hose.
“That puts them in harm’s way and really makes us evaluate our risk versus reward factor,” said Spencer, per DMN. However, having a sturdy, powerful robot on the team gives the department more options in a hazardous situation.
Dallas Fire-Rescue officials said they hope to have the unit operational by March of next year.