RS3 firefighting robot (LAFD/YouTube)

Firefighting robot joins LA force

The Los Angeles City Fire Department’s new robotic firefighter, the Thermite RS3, was on the job just a day after it arrived.

On Oct. 13, while the RS3 was headed to its official debut demonstration, it was diverted to help contain a fire consuming industrial textile buildings in downtown Los Angeles. After three hours, firefighters were ordered to get out of the buildings, and the RS3 pushed through the doors of facility to contain the fire from the inside, according to a report in the LA Times.

“These are the exact types of environments that we are looking at,” Los Angeles Fire Capt. Eric Scott told the Daily News. “When you have potential structural compromise where walls can fall in, roofs can collapse, and there’s no life hazard or person inside who needs rescuing, we don’t want to put our firefighters in harm’s way.”

LAFD is the first department in the nation to acquire the RS3. Built by Waterboro, Maine-based Textron: Howe & Howe Technologies, the RS3 allows first responders to remain up to 500 meters away from danger, using the remotely operated robot to not only see hazards with real-time high-definition video, but also discharge 2,500 gallons of water or foam per minute and even redirect the spray vertically to function as a sprinkler. Its low center of gravity allows it to climb over rough terrain, push vehicles from its path and pull up to 8,000 pounds with a winch, the company said. Optional attachments include a plow for pushing aside debris, positive pressure ventilator to remove smoke, lights and an infrared camera.

"The RS3 can deliver 2,500 gallons a minute of water so that's [equivalent] to about eight firefighters," Howe & Howe's Product Manager of Small Robotics Paul Ford told News Center Maine

"There's also cameras mounted on the nozzle itself [which] move. That's a thermal camera and visual camera," Ford said.

The RS3 is a “game-changer,” LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas told the LA Times. “It may make us rethink some of the ways we tackle fires when it’s available.

The LAFD Foundation raised $272,000 to purchase the RS3, landing grants from the Elon Musk Foundation and the Tides Foundation.

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