Project G.H.O.S.T - Robot Firefighters

Robert Pink MBE, of QinetiQ, recently gave a talk (at the IFE Mid Western Branch AGM) looking at the potential of robotic firefighting.

Mr. Pink's talk focused on Project GHOST, QinetiQ's blue light service which uses fire-fighting robots or remote operated vehicles (ROV'c) derived from bomb disposal robots to aid in dealing with incidents that involve cylinders, CBRN, other types of hazardous materials and in one case a container full of fireworks which was on fire.

BISON Remote Control Vehicle

BISON Remote Control Vehicle

The Bison RCV is used for gaining access, door opening, window smashing, lock cutting etc.

A Bison robot gained access to a van containing gas cylinders under the control of an operator located over 200m away from the vehicle. It can also be fitted with a special cylinder valve key to shut down flaming cylinders, as it has been found that some valves/regulators leak gas after being heated.

It is fitted with: Tools Include:
  • High Reach Arm
  • Hydraulic Cutter
  • TIC
  • 4 Colour Cameras
  • COFDM Digital Video
  • Fibre Link for Tunnel Ops
  • 4” Disc Cutter/Grinder
  • Electric Drill & Hole Saw
  • Drop Nose Anchor system
  • Can Haul a 100Kg Load
  • Can haul fire hose and support fire fighting branch.

Fireworks Incident

10 tons of fireworks inside a ships steel ISO container caught fire when thieves thought it would be a good idea to cut into the back of the container using a grinder. The resulting fire and numerous explosions lasted over 4 hours! A Bison opened the door of the container and applied water to suppress the fire. The Fire Brigade followed this up with a high volume ground monitor once the explosions stopped.


Robot Firefighters - Obvious Advantages

Mr. Pink explained: "At least 2 fire-fighters in the UK have been killed directly by exploding cylinders. One in 1987, a Sub Officer was killed when he was handling an Acetylene cylinder that had been involved in a relatively small fire at a quarry building. The other was a fire-fighter killed when an LPG cylinder exploded in a derelict community hall, who was unaware of the cylinders presence.

"The dangers of any cylinder, not just fuel gases involved in fire, potentially causing them to explode are well documented. The extra risks associated with Acetylene cylinders in particular mean that unless the cylinder involved in fire is positively identified as such, any cylinder is treated as containing Acetylene. This means that a 200m exclusion zone will need to be established with 24 hour cooling applied to the cylinder unless specific procedures can be put into place to confirm the cylinder has cooled enough to be safe from exploding.

"These procedures were put into place in part as a result of the 1987 incident. Incidents involving Acetylene cylinders (or involving unidentified cylinders) cause very significant local disruption to residents, businesses, services and transport networks on roads, rail and in the air at times. A quick conclusion to these types of incident are obviously advantageous however there are times where it is simply not safe to use fire-fighters to assess and cool cylinders. QinetiQ's robots can often go where fire-fighters cant and this can lead to a safe and quick resolution of the incident saving the obvious disruption and clearly making the incident safer for fire-fighters in particular. There is clearly also potential for robots to deal with New Dimension (CBRN) incidents of many different types assisting not only the Fire and Rescue Services but also the Police, Ambulance and Armed Forces.


Kenneth Pink MBE

Kenneth Pink MBE has been involved with the robots since their inception in the 1970's. Ken worked on the Tactical Robots Group, the division that designed all the bomb disposal robots used by the UK MoD. Ken is the technical lead for Project GHOST, QinetiQ’s Blue light service to provide ROV support to UK Emergency services. Following a period of training at the Swedish Military Academy he represented the EU investigating the potential to use ROVs for clearing UXOs in Bosnia. From 2004-2010 he was the formal UK representative to NATO chairing the Platforms committee for land based remote controlled vehicles (ROV's). Last year he visited Laos working with the Mine Clearance teams to undertake research work investigating methods of rendering safe heavy ordnance and AP mines left over from the Vietnam war. Source: Fire Magazine


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