U.S. Navy Seeks To Commission Firefighting Humanoid Robot

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TN Note: Ultimately, the Navy dreams of having automated warships run by humanoid robots. Fighting onboard fires is a step in that direction because it will force researchers to overcome many common problems such as rolling ships and rough weather.

The U.S. Navy is getting a helping hand from university researchers in its efforts to create a robot that can fight fires onboard its ships.

The Navy is hoping to one day have robots, instead of sailors, take on the dangerous job of tackling onboard fires. To make that happen, it is turning to researchers and students.

The U.S. military’s Office of Naval Research is giving a grant of $600,000 to a Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor to develop motion-planning algorithms for firefighting humanoid robots.

Dmitry Berenson, an assistant professor of computer science and robotics engineering at WPI, will work on the software for the humanoid robot build by engineering students at Virginia Tech for the Navy.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University also are involved in the project, dubbed SAFFiR, for Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot.

The Office of Naval Research has been working on SAFFIR for the past six years.

The robot, which is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weights about 140 pounds, also is designed to carry out other onboard tasks, such as basic maintenance work, to free up naval personnel for more complicated tasks.

WPI, which nearly a year ago finished in the top third of competitors in DARPA’s global Robotics Challenge, is expected to work with the Navy to run tests on the robotic firefighter, according to the university.

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