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What does the future of firefighting look like?

With technology constantly changing, it’s hard to imagine that drones and thermal imaging cameras are just the beginning of high-tech developments in the fire service


By Shelbie Watts, FireRescue1 Editorial Assistant

Fire service technology has already changed drastically since the 1600s. Can you imagine not being able to enter a burning building because you were without personal protective equipment?

Nowadays, firefighters are forging through the flames with high-tech gear such as thermal imaging cameras to help them see where they’re going, and drones to get an eye in the sky perspective.

With the speed that technology moves in every other industry, one has to wonder what the future holds for the fire service. Here’s a glimpse.

Powered exoskeleton firefighter suits

Industrial designer Jiazhen Chen was inspired to make a difference after a 2010 Shanghai fire killed 58 people in a high-rise apartment building. His solution was to slim things down for firefighters so they can move faster with the Advanced Firefighting Apparatus exoskeleton suit.

The suits strap on over a firefighter’s PPE and transfer the load directly to the ground, improving their walking and carrying ability. The firefighter can operate for up to two hours at a time with the suit, which is also equipped with a movable joy stick and a water gun system.

Water jetpacks

Firefighting jetpacks aren’t just a fantasy for Dubai, they’re the real deal. The water-propelled jetpacks were purchased by the United Arab Emirates in 2015 as a way to avoid traffic by turning to the sea.

With what is now being called “the Dolphin” method, firefighters ride a jet ski and use the water pressure from it to power the jetpack and fire hose. This way, the firefighter has more access to boat, road and shoreline fires, and an endless supply of water.

 

Sonic fire extinguishers

Who would have thought that pumping up the bass could save lives? Two George Mason University engineering students invented the sonic fire extinguisher to prove it could be done.

Seth Robertson and Viet Tran’s creation uses low frequency soundwaves that remove oxygen from air molecules, allowing the fire to be eliminated.

Robertson and Tran created the $600 extinguisher prototype with only an amplifier and a cardboard collimator to focus the sound. They discovered that high-pitched frequencies have no effect on fire, but the 30-60 Hz frequencies featured in deep bass hip-hop tunes work best.

 

Electric wave 'blasters'

Not to be outdone, a team from Harvard University found that they could harness the power of electricity to extinguish fires as well, with a Harry Potter-esque wand.

The team of researchers found that they could use a 600-watt amplifier connected to a wand-like probe to shoot electric beams and almost immediately snuff out flames that stood over a foot tall.  

Researcher Ludovico Cademartiri said the science behind the invention is complex, but he and his team believe the carbon soot strongly responds to electric fields once it is hit with an electric charge. The combustion reaction is then shaken loose when the flames are hit with the beam. 

The technology could be used in sprinkler systems and to fight fires in enclosed quarters, such as airplanes and submarines.

Robots

What’s the future without a little artificial intelligence? The TAF20 and the TAF35 are doing their part to keep firefighters safe by taking on the some of the work themselves.

The robots are extinguishing turbines that are placed on a crawler and outfitted with a nozzle ring that atomizes water and foam to make a fine mist powerful enough to travel 60 to 90 feet. Despite the power, the mist is still fine enough to not harm firefighters if they get sprayed.  

Firefighters can even take staying out of harm’s way a step further by controlling the robots remotely from a distance of up to 1,640 feet to do things such as easily move vehicles and remove smoke from a building.

New South Wales firefighters began using the robots in 2015, and NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliot said they have been a game-changer.

 

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