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London's Robotic Fire Brigade

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the playing-with-fire dept.

Robotics 82

dustpan writes "The BBC has a story up about a quartet of robotic fire fighters that the London Fire Brigade is testing and with which have been achieving 'tremendous results.' The robots were developed by QinetiQ, which is a defense contractor. The LFB has been testing the units since last year and the machines are primarily used in fires involving acetylene canisters. The group commander for hazardous materials and environmental protection with the LFB says that the robots have cut the time to resolve these potential hazards from 24 hours to 3. From the article: 'Three years ago we were shutting down parts of London for over 24 hours every other week. Now it doesn't even make the news.'"

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fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860049)

ladies, get your pussies ready!

Rob Malda's ass looser than a hooker's vagina (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860085)

I fucked his ass last night but I couldn't feel anything and he kept pooping on me.

Same platform different end-effectors (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860111)

Its the same platform type police have been using for years now.

Nothing new here, other than the uniform of the operators.

Is it really a robot when its driven and operated by a remote human? It has no autonomous functionality.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (2, Insightful)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860163)

I agree... plus where is the asbestos armor ?

It looks like this robot components would melt pretty quickly in presence of fire ;-))

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (2, Interesting)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860401)

Also I suspect it suffers from the 'Dalek problem'...it can't climb stairs. I assume that this is not too much of a problem as most acetylene cylinders are probably kept at ground level. Certainly if it keeps Firefighters safer, it must be a good thing.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860525)

A lot of bomb-disposal "robots" have stair-climbing wheels attached to one end-these typically are small wheels with large spikes on.

Anyway, real Daleks don't climb stairs, they just level the building.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860647)

Anyway, real Daleks don't climb stairs, they just level the building.

All you have to do is wait then. The acetylene will do that for you.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (0, Offtopic)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860843)

I'm wondering what got modded insightful? I assume the news of the wheels used to climb stairs would be "Informative" hence I'm left with the assumption that the Dalek comment was the insightful bit....ahh slashdot, thou art true to form =)

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860881)

Marvin stood at the end of the bridge corridor. He was not in fact a particularly small robot. His
silver body gleamed in the dusty sunbeams and shook with the continual barrage which the building
was still undergoing.
He did, however, look pitifully small as the gigantic black tank rolled to a halt in front of him. The
tank examined him with a probe. The probe withdrew.
Marvin stood there.
"Out of my way little robot," growled the tank.
"I'm afraid," said Marvin, "that I've been left here to stop you."
The probe extended again for a quick recheck. It withdrew again.
"You? Stop me?" roared the tank. "Go on!"
"No, really I have," said Marvin simply.
"What are you armed with?" roared the tank in disbelief.
"Guess," said Marvin.
The tank's engines rumbled, its gears ground. Molecule-sized electronic relays deep in its micro-
brain flipped backwards and forwards in consternation.
"Guess?" said the tank.

[...]

"Yes, go on," said Marvin to the huge battle machine, "you'll never guess."
"Errmmm ..." said the machine, vibrating with unaccustomed thought, "laser beams?"
Marvin shook his head solemnly.
"No," muttered the machine in its deep guttural rumble, "Too obvious. Anti-matter ray?" it
hazarded.
"Far too obvious," admonished Marvin.
"Yes," grumbled the machine, somewhat abashed, "Er ... how about an electron ram?"
This was new to Marvin.
"What's that?" he said.
"One of these," said the machine with enthusiasm.
From its turret emerged a sharp prong which spat a single lethal blaze of light. Behind Marvin a
wall roared and collapsed as a heap of dust. The dust billowed briefly, then settled.
"No," said Marvin, "not one of those."
"Good though, isn't it?"
"Very good," agreed Marvin.
"I know," said the Frogstar battle machine, after another
moment's consideration, "you must have one of those new Xanthic
Re-Structron Destabilized Zenon Emitters!"

"Nice, aren't they?" said Marvin.
"That's what you've got?" said the machine in considerable awe.
"No," said Marvin.
"Oh," said the machine, disappointed, "then it must be ..."
"You're thinking along the wrong lines," said Marvin, "You're failing to take into account
something fairly basic in the relationship between men and robots."
"Er, I know," said the battle machine, "is it ..." it tailed off into thought again.
"Just think," urged Marvin, "they left me, an ordinary, menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavy-
duty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me
with?"
"Oooh, er," muttered the machine in alarm, "something pretty damn devastating I should expect."
"Expect!" said Marvin, "oh yes, expect. I'll tell you what they
gave me to protect myself with shall I?"
"Yes, alright," said the battle machine, bracing itself.
"Nothing," said Marvin.
There was a dangerous pause.
"Nothing?" roared the battle machine.
"Nothing at all," intoned Marvin dismally, "not an electronic sausage."
The machine heaved about with fury.
"Well, doesn't that just take the biscuit!" it roared, "Nothing, eh? Just don't think, do they?"
"And me," said Marvin in a soft low voice, "with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left
side."
"Makes you spit, doesn't it?"
"Yes," agreed Marvin with feeling.
"Hell that makes me angry," bellowed the machine, "think I'll smash that wall down!"
The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the
machine.
"How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly.
"Just ran off and left you, did they?" the machine thundered.
"Yes," said Marvin.
"I think I'll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank.
It took out the ceiling of the bridge.
"That's very impressive," murmured Marvin.
"You ain't seeing nothing yet," promised the machine, "I can take out this floor too, no trouble!"
It took out the floor, too.
"Hell's bells!" the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and smashed itself to bits on
the ground below.
"What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged away.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864901)

Ah, one of my favorite parts. Oh Marvin, how I miss thee.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860181)

If it makes some decisions for itself, it might be a robot. Arguably, ABS is an example of robotics in action, so the line is pretty blurry.

Oh god shut up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860185)

Shut the fuck up you fagmaster

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860189)

a bomb disposal robot is still a robot isn't it? and most of those are remote-controlled

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860221)

If it doesn't make decisions for itself at all it is technically not a robot. That's like calling a remote control car a robot.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (2, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860281)

If it doesn't make decisions for itself at all it is technically not a robot.

Is this some reference or joke I'm not aware of? Current robots never make their own decisions. The manufacturing industry would be absolute havoc if robots decided what and how they wanted to do every day.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (5, Informative)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860515)

I've been programming, repairing, and designing end effectors for industrial robots for about 10 years now. Here's a real quick and simple example of how robots make decisions.

When you program an industrial robot, you position the end effector in a particular point in space, program that point, then position the end effector in another point and then give it a command on how you want it to move there: straight line, arc, air cut, etc.

What I don't have to do is determine the speed and encoder count shift needed for each individual servo motor (axis) on the robot. The internal logic of the robot does that. On a standard 6 axis robot, it would take hours to program a single straight line if you had to program a path for each servo motor. I tried it in school once, never again.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860659)

When the robot decides how to move the end effector from point A to point B does it take into account known obstacles between those two points?

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (3, Informative)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861451)

Depends on what you mean by known obstacles. A fixed obstacle, maybe. That would be defined usually as an boundary in the work envelope and some systems can find there own way around them. Material handling systems, like an automated palletizing system, may have a support structure in the work envelope to work around. For the most part, its a good idea to keep the work envelope as free of obstructions as possible.

If its a mobile object, like part of a weld fixture, then no. If you tell the robot to move from point A to point B, it will try to move from point A to point B regardless of what is in the way. Its the programmers job to work the robot around obstacles.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864509)

There's another kind of mobile object that it doesn't know about. It's called "idiot that climbed over the fence".

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864915)

And hopefully said mobile object won't be mobile or capable of mobility for very long....

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

condition-label-red (657497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861159)

It is called Inverse Kinematics [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

shervinemami (1270718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862697)

IK isn't used too often, since it takes a lot of processing power, and isn't always guaranteed to give you good results!

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28866545)

How can a straightforward mathematical operation like converting from cartesian to (a tuple of) polar coordinates be called a decision?

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (5, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860377)

(UAV engineer here)

It has no autonomous functionality.

Not necessarily true. Like most UGVs, it has autonomous terrain handling, station keeping and obstacle avoidance functions. But it requires a human navigator, and a human operator for the effectors and other payload delivery.

So, you can accurately say it's a "robotically piloted waldo" if you wish. The media likes to simplify this into simply "robot," granted, and not without some sensationalism.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860409)

I don't think the public, at least in the US, would be willing to accept a robot that could actually make its own decisions. We'll accept things that can choose how precisely to stay upright or how exactly to best handle air currents in flight, but much beyond that would tend to freak people out.

Sort of on top of that, I think there's a huge amount of work necessary to actually have a robot that can properly tackle a building fire.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (5, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863329)

I don't think the public, at least in the US, would be willing to accept a robot that could actually make its own decisions.

Hold it right there, cowboy ... You elected Reagan and at least one of the two Bushes?

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864247)

and Nixon, don't forget Nixon!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvYm68dOQ4k

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28870279)

Yes, but not Al Gore. The line must be drawn somewhere!

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (4, Informative)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860655)

Teleoperated machines have a colloquial term in two syllables, the "Waldo". This from an old Heinlein story "Waldo & Magic Incorporated".

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866663)

Teleoperated machines have a colloquial term in two syllables, the "Waldo". This from an old Heinlein story "Waldo & Magic Incorporated".

And most people think it's a guy in a striped shirt and a funny hat.

I confess that when I think "waldo" I think robotic arm such as a manipulator attached to a deep sea suit or something in a dangerous environment operated by a scientist behind foot-thick glass. I think "drone" does a better job of conveying the idea of a teleoperated machine. Robot conveys the sense of autonomous behavior, even though it can also accept orders from a human. If a human has to control every part of the way it operates, I think "drone" is more accurate. My roomba is a robot, my rc car is not. (though I can steer the roomba manually with the remote if I want to.)

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28876107)

I always thought that a waldo specifically referred to a control system for some sort of manipulator that featured feedback. It has always been a great mystery to me why backhoe operators haven't been offered something like this, perhaps using a pneumatic system alongside the hydraulic. You wouldn't move your arm very far, and the system would support its weight, so that should eliminate most concerns about fatigue.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860819)

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (4, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860957)

I recently went to an open day at the Joint European Tours near Oxford the UK. It's the world's biggest fusion reactor currently in service, and one of only a few of it's kind that can run on a mix of deuterium-tritium fuel. It can get highly radioactive, so they use some very impressive robots.

The machines they use are in a class all their own. They're huge, high precision machines that can be used on the outside of the tokamak, suspended from a telescoping boom riding on a gantry, and also has a snake like boom to access the inside of the tokamak. It's got human arm-like end effectors, can carry several tons, and supplies force feedback to the operators. They also have lots of what looks like fancy motion planning software to help out.

However the scientist leading the tour didn't look like the type to suffer fools gladly and got a little testy with me, because they're not actually robots. They're "remote handling systems".. and apparently there's a difference between a 'robot' and a 'remote handling system'. He implied, but didn't actually say that very little work with these machines would be automated (too complicated, robots crashing into stuff left lying around be technicians is apparently a bad thing around anything nuclear.

So there you go: as long as there's always a human in the loop, apparently it isn't a robot.

Listen up fags: your health isn't my concern. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28861219)

Should I be paying for your car insurance and your homeowner's insurance, too? Shit, I guess I'm already paying your fucking mortgage thanks to Obumma. Must I also be taxed to provide you with free long-term disability insurance? Hey after all, if you get hurt and can't work, you'd just be a drag on the economy anyway.

Do me a favor: if you don't believe in the values of individual liberty, personal accountability, and personal property rights, then get the fuck out of my country. There's plenty of places in Latin America that will suit you just fine!

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (3, Insightful)

shervinemami (1270718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862787)

It's not like there is an official meaning of the word Robot that has been clearly defined for hundreds of years. Basically if people want to call it a robot then its a robot. I've built both autonomous and human controlled robots before and even if there's no autonomous functionality at all in a robot, it can still have a lot of similar problems to autonomous robots, which is why its generally classified as a robot, as opposed to "machine" or "remotely operated vehicle".

I mean you wouldn't call a computer printer a robot, even though it has a level of autonomy and motors and sensors and feedback loops and embedded processor, but if it was in a factory and was 10 times larger and had a plastic cutting tool instead of a ink dropping tool, then some people would call it a factory robot.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28863825)

Nothing new here

But it's a Qinetiq press release! How can it NOT be news?

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

artg (24127) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864225)

> Is it really a robot when its driven and operated by a remote human? It has no autonomous functionality. Yes. A robot is, more than anything, a programmable agent. It's name comes from Robota, the Czech word for forced labour. We have ascribed lots of other features to them, often expecting autonomous action, reaction to their environment or human form but these are all a matter of opinion and usage : there is no authority that replaces Capek's use of the word as the base definition. Autonomous functionality really needs another word : a fully autonomous 'robot' wouldn't be a robot at all, since it would only act as an agent of the user if it chose to do so, just like a human. I realise that the meaning of the word is changing as the capabilities improve and the robot of our imagination becomes closer to reality, but I think a definition that precludes non-autonomous robots is unreasonable when a new definition is still so subjective.

Re:Same platform different end-effectors (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28878031)

Looks like the same robot (actually ROV) that the army was using for bomb disposal for years.

---

Robotics Feed [feeddistiller.com] @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

I will not be satisfied until... (2, Funny)

Biljrat (45007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860195)

they have a robotic fire brigade pipe band.

Re:I will not be satisfied until... (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863185)

Goddammit, I thought *I* was the lowest UID piper on slashdot. Bah.

Sure the robots are nice and all... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860257)

until you get crazed fireman robots with fire axes and that are on fire.

Robots on fire would pose a serious threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28863935)

You can't grapple them if they are on fire.

Reverse the polarity! (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860341)

Now all they have to do is make sure they don't flip the switch on the robots' backs from "fight" to "cause".

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

Naerymdan (870497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860385)

Or switch the water hoses to gasoline lines!

Re:Reverse the polarity! (2, Funny)

weirdo557 (959623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860425)

in other news, massive outbreaks of fire could have been prevented by diodes. more news at 11

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860551)

Not a Ray Bradbury fan, huh?

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865569)

Or even worse, don't let someone set the threshold temperature for fighting fires to below 98.6 degrees.

The obligatory (3, Funny)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860359)

I, for one, welcome our new Robotic Firefighting Overlords...

Pak Chooie Unf (1)

LordEd (840443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860419)

We are here to protect you.

Re:The obligatory (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860679)

I, for one, welcome our new Robotic Firefighting Overlords...

You had better believe it [boingboing.net] .

Re:The obligatory (2, Funny)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860787)

Directive: Prevent Fires + most fires caused by arson = "Kill all humans!"

How often does this happen? (5, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860479)

The LFB has been testing the units since last year and the machines are primarily used in fires involving acetylene canisters. The group commander for hazardous materials and environmental protection with the LFB says that the robots have cut the time to resolve these potential hazards from 24 hours to 3. From the article: 'Three years ago we were shutting down parts of London for over 24 hours every other week.

Apparently there are a lot of rogue acetylene canisters catching fire in London on a regular basis. I weld as a hobby and in all the welding shops I've been in, in all the classes, I've never seen an acetylene tank go off. And with all the welders I've ever met in all those places, maybe one has ever seen a tank go off. Is it something with your gauges over there? The tank construction? Seems to happen a lot more there than it does here.

Acetylene is nothing you want to dick with. If it gets away from you, then I'd sure want a robot going in to deal with it. [youtube.com]

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860597)

My impression from the article isn't that the containers are specifically causing fires, but rather there are a lot of fires that may involve the containers.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861263)

My impression from the article isn't that the containers are specifically causing fires, but rather there are a lot of fires that may involve the containers.

Yeah if an acetylene bottle goes off the fire may end very quickly. The trick is not to be around when that happens so you get Marvin the paranoid android to do your firefighting for you.

Some years ago a plumbers ute blew up on a freeway here in Melbourne. IIRC the driver was lucky to survive.

Re:How often does this happen? (2, Informative)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860717)

Apparently there are a lot of rogue acetylene canisters catching fire in London on a regular basis

It's not just the acetylene. The gas is often stored in suspension in liquid acetone [wikipedia.org] , which is also flammable and can be explosive, as well as being a solvent for everything from nail polish to styrofoam. That stuff's nasty.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860751)

Yeah it is. We lost a house a number of years ago to a fire. The firefighters almost had the house under control, and the separate garage was also involved. They were focusing on the house first, and then learned that we had acetylene in there.... Needless to say they went from focusing on the house so much to the garage. In the end the garage made it, and the house didn't.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864543)

To be fair, if the garage hadn't made it the house sure wouldn't have.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863971)

I used to work in a factory where we used all manner of chemicals. Most were flammable, some carcinogenic, some just plain horrible.

Acetone was only one of two we kept outside, in an explosion bin, 20 metres from any buildings. The other was paraffin.

My wife uses it in our tiny bedroom, with the windows closed, with the hot hair straighteners on.

If only she'd believe me...

"Made in Britain" (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860795)

Apparently there are a lot of rogue acetylene canisters catching fire in London on a regular basis.

It's not really surprising that their acetylene canisters are catching on fire when you consider their fire extinguishers [youtube.com] .

Re:"Made in Britain" (1)

Important Remark (1604945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862973)

And even their robots have Aunt Irma visiting....

Re:How often does this happen? (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860799)

It's not that the containers cause fires (though I would guess the welding torches fed from them do from time to time), it's that properties catch fire for a whole number of reasons and those properties sometimes contain gas cylinders (of which acetelene is the nastiest common one but even things like butane and propane can be pretty nasty). Furthermore until the fire brigade can contact the owner they often don't know if cylinders are present and if so what they contain.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863783)

It's not that the containers cause fires (though I would guess the welding torches fed from them do from time to time), it's that properties catch fire for a whole number of reasons and those properties sometimes contain gas cylinders (of which acetelene is the nastiest common one but even things like butane and propane can be pretty nasty). Furthermore until the fire brigade can contact the owner they often don't know if cylinders are present and if so what they contain.

While you're right on one level, acetylene is a special nasty case. The issue is that it's unstable at high pressure, so that safety valves on acetylene cylinders have to give way at relatively low temperatures and pressures. OK, this does mean that you're less likely to have them acting like an explosive shell, but it does mean that you have a real risk of the cylinder going off like a burning explosive rocket. A 200m exclusion zone seems very sensible to me!

Re:How often does this happen? (4, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862737)

"I weld as a hobby and in all the welding shops I've been in, in all the classes, I've never seen an acetylene tank go off. And with all the welders I've ever met in all those places, maybe one has ever seen a tank go off. Is it something with your gauges over there? The tank construction? Seems to happen a lot more there than it does here."

I own a fridge, most people I know own or use a fridge, in the last 50yrs I have only ever seen one fridge explode and that was in a house fire. The firefighters at that fire told me exploding fridges are a common occurance, but what the hell do they know?

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863363)

No - for a couple of years, the risk of acetyline cylinders has been routinely exaggerated, and precautionarly measured so wildly excessive (Like shutting down several blocks - "because there MIGHT be acetyline in the shed"), that people in in London have been wondering what the real story was ..

now we know - the LFB had paid loads of money for fancy hardware, and needed to justify it! We had thought they were planning a ban on acetyline, or more likely some kind of ""safety" tax (they probably still plan that to pay for the robots).

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863387)

When there are fires (typically buildings, especially ones under construction or renovation) involving flammable gas cylinders the fire brigade in the UK impose a 200m exclusion zone. Look on YouTube for the reason -- if a cylinder explodes it's pretty bad for the surrounding area.

This can be extremely inconvenient, as a 400m diameter circle in London is quite likely to cross a railway line or major road, which requires closing the railway/road until the fire brigade are confident the cylinders are safe. If they can cut this time from 24hrs to 3hrs that's excellent. I haven't heard of any such closures for ages so it seems to be working. There's probably less construction going on this year anyway though.

Re:How often does this happen? (1)

MateuszM (1110895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865217)

And with all the welders I've ever met in all those places, maybe one has ever seen a tank go off.

Well, that's perhaps because when a tank goes off, usually there is not enough of the welder left to tell the story...

Exterminate (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860505)

the fire.

Re:Exterminate (1)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861127)

del fire.*

Broke regulator (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28860627)

It is awesome to seeing robots being used for peaceful purposes. That said, this looks like your typical military contractor--over budget and delivering substantially less than possible. Seriously, why do you need that many different robots? I can understand a couple--but that many seems overly complicated.

Did anyone else notice in the movie, when the robot set the cylinder down, it broke the regulator off? If it'd been charged, that would have created a quite avoidable mess.

Re:Broke regulator (1)

scheme (19778) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861887)

Did anyone else notice in the movie, when the robot set the cylinder down, it broke the regulator off? If it'd been charged, that would have created a quite avoidable mess.

I don't think the regulator was really attached correctly to the cylinder. The robot just drops the cyclinder end from about 6 inches and the regulator just pops out. I'm fairly sure the regulator would be more secure if the cylinder were actually charged.

Trumpton (2, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860719)

Nothing new here. Trumpton had artificial firemen in the 60s. See! [flickr.com]

I remember reading about a DIY version (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860863)

This sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it; thanks to Google Books [google.com] I'm remembering a pretty cool section in Robot Builder's Bonanza [amazon.com] on DIY robot firefighters, building up simple circuits to ever more capable, fire-detection systems, control schemes, and automatically controlled extinguishing apparatus.

Obviously not quite the same thing, but it was pretty cool when I read it, and so I'm taking this opportunity to plug the awesomeness of building DIY firefighting robots. =]

Dumpsters included? (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860889)

Now send them back in time to stop the Great Fire of London in 1666, and we have a plot for a new Terminator movie (without the terminating part, however).

Re:Dumpsters included? (1)

weirdo557 (959623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861497)

well, you could say that they're terminating the fire

I, for one (0, Redundant)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862547)

Welcome our new fire-fighting robot overlords.

Great Comedy from the Brit's, Thanks (0, Redundant)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862741)

Interesting concept. Rubber Tires, Rubber Hoses; all I could think of was the pile of slag that the fire would make. I spit Tea all over my keyboard when the Robot carrying the Welding tank drops it and the pressure guage falls/breaks off. If that tank had been pressured, THEN there would have been torpedo fire, about 20 to 100 feet from the demo 'drop' site.

What would it take (1)

Cur8or (1220818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28862885)

to convert these robots into flame-throwers and could they figure it out for themselves?

Typical wasteful hi-tech western solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28863727)

> Standard procedure when a fire is suspected to involve acetylene is to cordon off an area of 200m around it for 24 hours.

Bullshit. Do you know what we do here in Hungary, when welding gas bottles are involved in fires? We call in the police snipers, usually 2 or 3 of them and they rapidly put a dozen holes in the canisters using semi-automatic SVD Dragunov marksman rifles. The compressed gas will just escape to the atmosphere without exploding.

Britons armed with H&K G3 or FN FAL could do this equally well. However, it is important to fire many shots accurately and very quickly to allow safe venting, so don't try this with bolt action sniper rifles or with just a single marksmen.

Re:Typical wasteful hi-tech western solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864421)

Bullshit. Do you know what we do here in Hungary, when welding gas bottles are involved in fires? We call in the police snipers, usually 2 or 3 of them and they rapidly put a dozen holes in the canisters using semi-automatic SVD Dragunov marksman rifles.

I'm picturing snipers puncturing an acetylene cylinder in the middle of a fire.

The compressed gas will just escape to the atmosphere without exploding.

That's the part I'm having trouble picturing.

They let you clowns into the EU... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864627)

Awesome. What do you do if there's an electrical overload - fire a howitzer at the nearest sub-station? Call in an airstrike to take out the power lines?

Extinguish the bbq - you have 10 seconds to comply (1)

yossarianuk (1402187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864093)

When they become self aware that man causes most fires we're doomed !

!robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28866407)

These are remote controlled (by humans), purely mechanical devices.

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