Researchers in Scotland have developed a helmet that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help firefighters find and rescue victims faster.
The team, from the newly opened National Robotarium in Edinburgh, designed the device using sensors, thermal cameras and radar technology.
The equipment aims to help firefighters navigate in a smoke-filled environment, map their surroundings and ultimately rescue victims more quickly.
“Firefighters are heroes. Everyone knows that. But what we are doing is (...) we also want them to have this superhero ability: see through smoke, see through darkness and have this ability to find effective solutions for search and rescue," said Chris Xiaoxuan Lu, Lecturer in Cyber-Physical Systems at the School of Informatics of the University of Edinburgh.
"It will definitely improve the safety for firefighters from multiple dimensions. We already talk about victim searching. We also talk about navigation together with all the sensor units,” he added.
“In the long run, we will try to investigate what is the most efficient communication manner between the frontline firefighters to the outside chief commanders, so that all the systems can be even more efficient".
To develop this technology, the research team collaborated with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and tested the design in their training facility.
“Our equipment can at times be restrictive in terms of what we have to do for searching. Add in any heat, dark smoke - having a thermal image capacity helps us massively in terms of location of someone,” said Watch Commander Glen Macaffer.
“We can scan a room a lot better. We can take five to ten seconds compared to probably a couple of minutes when we wouldn't have that technology. So for us to have that would be a massive game changer".
According to the team, the device weighs less than 1 kg, is made of affordable components and can easily fit on standard firefighting helmets.
The researchers are already thinking of the next step.
"For now, we have all this proof of concept ready. What is next is to find the right industry collaborators who are willing to work with us to make this technology really go to the market and benefit the global firefighters at a wide kind of audience”, said Lu.