On wasteland on the outskirts of Zagreb a robotic firefighter is put through its paces. The Firerob, developed by Croatian firm DOK-ING, is a unique concept that combines tank-like toughness with the latest firefighting equipment.
Zoran Boskovic, R&D leader at DOK-ING, is controlling the vehicle using a joystick. “It’s very simple to drive. We actually took idea from video games,” he admits.
Driving over logs, and through walls, lifting up cars and putting out fires in a matter of seconds – the firerob can go where other fire trucks fear to tread.
Boskovic talks us through the tech: “So we have a specially designed track system that is capable to carry around 30 tonnes, it can go up to 10 kilometres per hour. In front we have a dozer blade equipped together with a gripper tool. You can punch through walls, brick or concrete walls, it doesn’t matter. Also you can take objects up to 180cms wide and up to 5 tonnes heavy.”
The Firerob has seven cameras on board, including an infrared imaging system to spot casualties.
“It can recognise human silouhettes in smoke, let’s say, and of course it informs the operator, so the operator knows ‘ok, there is a human, pull back the machine and send the firefighters to rescue,” explains Boskovic.
DOK-ING is best known for its remote-controlled mine clearing machines.
Mladen Jovanovic, sales manager, has high hopes for the Firerob: “In terms of market we think that this machine can be used in nuclear power plants, chemical industry, oil industry, oil refineries, ammunition depots, that means in all industries and situations where the object might explode any second.”
Two Firerobs have already been sold to the Russian government.
The Firerob prototype was developed as part of a European research project. That collaboration gave the Croatian team access to specialised technology and know how.
“Scot-ATRI from Scotland has developed for us a special two coating shield, a thermo shield, which is slowing down the increase of the temperature into the machine and allowing the machine to work a longer time in the high temperatures,” explains Jovanovic.
After a flawless demonstration in front a a crowd of potential customers and media, the engineers continue to tinker with the Firerob, finetuning its capabilities. Boskovic would like to make it even more autonomous.
“I want to improve GPS for sure, I want to improve because I think a real robotic vehicle has to do everything alone, without operator, operator has to think only about actions, so to watch cameras and to see what the machine can’t, that’s the next goal,” he says.