SINGAPORE: Imagine fighting fire using robots.
That is something the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is actively looking at doing to enhance its fire-fighting and rescue capabilities.
One such technology currently being tested is the Red Rhino Robot, or 3R.
At almost 80kg and less than a metre long, it is a compact and portable emergency responder that can potentially replace a traditionally four-man crew on their light fire attack vehicle, to a three-man crew.
"This robot can penetrate deeper into the seat of fire, without the risk of having a firefighter in there," Assistant Commissioner Ling Young Ern, Director of Operations Department said. "With its auto heat-seeking mechanism, it can autonomously detect fire and seek out exactly where the heat source is."
The prototype was revealed at the SCDF's workplan seminar on Wednesday (Apr 18) at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
It is one of the various ways the SCDF is focusing on integrating robotics to enhance capabilities of frontline responders.
Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam, who launched the initiatives said: "We do it because we have to, but it has been a very meaningful journey. For example having a robot in a vehicle to fight fires, it saves us manpower and also enhances the ability of SCDF to deal with the fires.
"SCDF has had a very strong culture of innovation, bringing in technology for operational practical purposes. All of them have increased SCDF operational readiness and ability to fight these emergencies that arise and save lives.“
The SCDF also revealed their new Exoskeleton project, which enhances a responder’s performance in firefighting and rescue operations by enabling them to carry up to 40kg of firefighting equipment without feeling the burden of the weight.
Jointly developed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the exoskeleton uses pneumatic pistons to reduce the muscle stress placed on the responder.
Equipment load will be passed through the machine and transferred to the ground via the footplate.
"We want this exoskeleton to be able to help our responders to free up the time and effort in doing physically taxing activities so they can perform other roles," Lieutenant Colonel Quek Wei Liang from the operations department said. "It provides assisted power to the user when he's walking around straight stretches or walking up and down steps."
In terms of Urban Search and Rescue Operations (USAR), the SCDF is testing out a Life Detection Robot.
Shaped like a "caterpillar", the unmanned device can travel through rubbles and uneven terrains.
It is equipped with multiple detection capabilities for better search performance, including visual imaging, detection of human presence by picking out sound, heat and chemical releases from the human body, as well as providing a 3-Dimensional mapping of the area of operations.
The SCDF MyResponder app, which notifies Community First Responders (CFRs) of cardiac arrests that occur in their immediate vicinity, will now include fire cases.
That was another initiative introduced at the workplan seminar.
It aims to alert CFRs to assist in mitigating minor rubbish chute fires, which can be easily extinguished but accounts for half of fires in residential premises.
Forty-two-year-old Amos Hoe, School of Sports, Health and Leisure Manager at Republic Polytechnic, was having dinner when the app, then on trial, sounded its alert about a rubbish chute fire near his place.
“When I saw the fire, I was a bit apprehensive at first," recounted Hoe.
"But I had a fire extinguisher at home. I grabbed it and I went to the site. when I reached the fire was bringing itself out. The app requested for photos to be sent over. I'm quite glad I did that on hindsight, because of the photos I sent, SCDF won't have to bring down their appliances. Maybe I saved them a few minutes, which is just a little bit of what I can do."