The Dragon Firefighter in action at the opening ceremony of the World Robot Summit. (Tadokoro Laboratory, Tohoku University, Japan via SWNS)
A firefighting “flying dragon” that can extinguish raging infernos from above could be deployed around the world within 10 years.
The state-of-the-art 13-foot-long robotic dragon that spouts water rather than flames is currently being developed by Japanese scientists to help put out fires too dangerous for humans to tackle.
The blueprint of the new robot called the Dragon Firefighter, has been published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
“We here present a prototype of a four meter-long, remotely controllable flying firehose robot, engineered to safely and efficiently extinguish fires in buildings by directly approaching the fire sources,” said Joint corresponding author Dr. Yuichi Ambe.
A research team from Prof Satoshi Tadokoro’s laboratory at Tohoku University began working on similar flying robots back in 2016.
Since then, 11 researchers and students have contributed to its further development, liaising with Japanese firefighters to better understand their needs.
The Dragon Firefighter’s hose is propelled upward – flying two meters (6.5ft) above the ground – by eight controllable jets of water spouting from its center and head.
The firehose can change shape and be oriented towards flames, steered by a control unit in a wheeled cart behind.
The cart is connected through a supply tube to a fire truck with a water reservoir of 14,000 liters (3,080 gallons).
(Tadokoro Laboratory, Tohoku University, Japan via SWNS)
The nozzles spout water at a rate of 6.6 liters (1.4 gallons) per second with a pressure of up to one megapascal.
Researchers say the hose’s tip contains a conventional and thermal imaging camera, which helps to find the location of the fire.
The Dragon Firefighter received its “baptism of fire” at the opening ceremony of the World Robot Summit (WRS2020), held in September 2021 in Fukushima.
There, it successfully extinguished the ceremonial flame, consisting of fireballs lit by another robot, from a distance of four meters (13ft).
Dr. Yu Yamauchi, an assistant professor at Akita Prefectural University, said: “Since the demonstration at WRS2020, we have continued to work on improving our Dragon and have learned many new things.
“For example, we found that the original passive dampening mechanism which counters oscillations of the Dragon Firefighter’s body was impractical: it took too long to prepare for flight.
“We also found that heat from fires can cause detrimental plastic deformation in outdoor applications of the corrugated tube that holds the water hose and electric cables.”
Other improvements include better waterproofing, a nozzle unit capable of handling a wider range of net forces, and an improved mechanism for channeling water flow.
Further developments are also in the pipeline, according to the researchers.
Dr. Ambe, an Assistant Professor at Osaka University, said: “We estimate that it will take approximately 10 more years to deploy our robot in real-world firefighting scenarios.”
He added: “The primary challenge will be to extend its reach to beyond 10 meters (32.81 feet) .
“Developing effective firefighting tactics tailored to this robot’s unique capabilities will likewise be a critical aspect of further development.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”
Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.