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Japanese researchers develop remote-controlled 'Dragon Firefighter' robot

The Dragon Firefighter robot surpasses an obstacle to directly extinguish a fire in this photo provided by the research laboratory of Tohoku University professor Satoshi Tadokoro.
The fire-extinguishing robot flies through the air in this photo provided by the research laboratory of Tohoku University professor Satoshi Tadokoro.

TOKYO -- Japanese researchers have developed a firefighting robot dubbed the "Dragon Firefighter" that can fly up and extinguish fires beyond obstacles in places that could be difficult for human firefighters to reach.

    The robot, announced on May 30 by a team including members of Tohoku University, is connected to a hose, and resembles a dragon when in operation, hence its name. They envisage it being used to fight fires in high-rise buildings, large warehouses and other places where it is difficult to approach the source of the blaze.

    High-pressure jets of water on the head of the robot and in a middle section are used to lift it off the ground. Its head is equipped with a camera that can capture images and detect heat, and the robot can be controlled remotely to seek out the source of a fire, researchers say. Changing the direction of the jets of water enables the operator to alter the robot's direction.

    The model researchers developed is 3 meters long. In a test it was able to fly over an obstacle -- representing a window -- and extinguish a fire in a steel drum in about 1 minute, according to the researchers.

    Researchers envisage the robot being attached to the end of a ladder or another object, and they plan to extend its reach to about 20 meters in the future. They aim to put it to practical use within three years.

    Tohoku University professor Satoshi Tadokoro, who specializes in robot engineering, commented, "There have been robots in the past that go into dangerous areas in place of firefighters, but this is the first to fly over an obstacle and directly extinguish a fire."

    (Japanese original by Yuka Saito, Science & Environment News Department)

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