The Drones and Robots that Helped Save Notre Dame

In the era of social media, events such as the fire at Notre Dame cathedral are experienced by a global audience in real-time. From New York to Tokyo, millions of people were glued to their smartphones and computers, waiting for the latest update from media outlets and even individuals who were on the ground documenting the fearsome blaze. For twelve grueling hours, the fate of the 850 year old Parisian icon hung in the balance, and for a time it looked like the worst was inevitable.

The fires have been fully extinguished, the smoke has cleared, and in the light of day we now know that the heroic acts of the emergency response teams managed to avert complete disaster. While the damage to the cathedral is severe, the structure itself and much of the priceless art inside still remain. It’s far too early to know for sure how much the cleanup and repair of the cathedral will cost, but even the most optimistic of estimates are already in the hundreds of millions of dollars. With a structure this old, it’s likely that reconstruction will be slowed by the fact that construction techniques which have become antiquated in the intervening centuries will need to be revisited by conservators. But the people of France will not be deterred, and President Emmanuel Macron has already vowed his country will rebuild the cathedral within five years.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the men and women who risked their lives to save one of France’s most beloved monuments. They deserve all the praise from a grateful nation, and indeed, world. But fighting side by side with them were cutting-edge pieces of technology, some of which were pushed into service at a moments notice. These machines helped guide the firefighters in their battle with the inferno, and stood in when the risk to human life was too great. At the end of the day, it was man and not machine that triumphed over nature’s fury; but without the help of modern technology the toll could have been far higher.

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Arduino Fights Fire with… Water?

We don’t think we’d want to trust our fire safety to a robot carrying a few ounces of water, but as a demonstration or science project, [Tinker Guru’s] firefighting robot was an entertaining answer to the question: “What do I do with that flame sensor that came in the big box of Arduino sensors I bought from China?” You can see a video of the device below.

You can see, it is a pretty standard two-wheel robot with the drive wheels to the rear and a skid plate up front. There are a flame sensor and a water pump up forward, as well. You can probably guess, the device notices a flame and rushes to squirt water on it.

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Japanese Fire-Fighting Dragon Rides Water Jets

If you are building a robot to fight fires, why not use the water that you are fighting fires with to propel your robot? That seems to be the idea behind the Dragon Fire Fighting robot built by [Professor Satoshi Tadokoro], and his team at Tadohoku University. Their dragon robot is raised by the same directed jets of water that are used to stop the fire.

The three-meter robot also uses these jets of water to steer, moving the dragon’s head by firing water jets at angles. I’m not sure how practical it really is, though: the jets that the robot uses to steer could do as much damage as the fire itself if it wasn’t used carefully. The idea is to attach it to the end of a ladder or crane used by firefighters, so it can explore a building on fire without anyone having to step inside.

The robot was built as part of the Tough Robotics Challenge, a program that is looking to build robots that can help in disasters. Japan is one of the most disaster-prone places on the planet, thanks to earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, and Godzilla attacks, so the program is looking to build robots that can help out. Some of the concepts they are looking at include cyborg animals, a listening drone that can help find survivors after a disaster using a sensitive microphone array and a serpentine robot that can map pipes and underground structures.

[Via TechXplore and Qes]

 

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