Maine-based Howe and Howe Technologies is a self-described fabricator of extreme vehicles; they’re the folks behind that Ripsaw Super Tank thing you’ve seen in Mad Max: Fury Road or one of the Fast & Furious flicks.
As it turns out, the Ripsaw’s two little brothers with a more clear-cut vocation: The Thermite RS1 and RS3, a pair of tracked firefighting robots that resemble Wall-E with water cannons.
The RS1 model is small enough to climb staircases, whereas the larger RS3 can be fitted with an obstacle-moving plow. Powered by diesel engines, both models aren’t autonomous, but are controlled remotely by humans.
Here’s what the POV looks like from the remote operator’s screen:
Kind of looks like a videogame, no? Yet these are designed and built to actually do the job of firefighting, not star in Vin Diesel movies or games. To that end one of them was recently shipped not quite to Hollywood, but to the nearby Los Angeles Fire Department, which rolled it out this week.
The LAFD’s RS3 was reportedly used to fight a commercial structure fire on Tuesday, its first day of service.
"New challenges continue to emerge in the fire service and the LAFD is committed to leveraging technology to enhance firefighting operations while reducing risk to firefighters. While the RS3 is not the answer to all types of firefighting, it will assist with safe interior fire operations on large commercial fires, wood-framed structures under construction, structural defense at wildfires, large animal rescues, fuel tanker fires, auto storage fires and much more."
Until they invent an RS4 that can climb into the back of a fire truck, the ‘bots do raise a small logistical issue: They must be trailered to site.
What we’re hoping to see next is what the West Coast desperately needs: Wildfire-fighting robots.