|The Little Guy is a remotely controlled robot that can tow up to 1,000 feet of five-inch hose. It weighs 400 pounds and carries lighting, infrared sensors, and a self-protection nozzle. Future models will include a cutting system. (Photos courtesy of Fire Research Corporation.)|
|The unit will hold 800 to 1,000 feet of five-inch hose and will flow up to 1,250 gpm through Elkhart Brass smooth bore, automatic fog, or foam nozzles. Users must predetermine how far the fire is from the water source to deploy the correct amount of hose.|
Innovation is the backbone of the fire service. For example, many tactics, though tried and true, are often tweaked on the fly for specific situations. Some pieces of equipment, like the halligan, address specific tasks that must be accomplished on the fireground to bring an incident to a successful conclusion. Other equipment has come to market by those willing to think outside the box to create a product firefighters can use for various types of incidents. Fire Research Corporation (FRC) recently unveiled one such product.
Robotics for the Fire Service
We have drones for the fire service now, and radio-controlled hydrant valves have recently come to the market. Departments can spec their apparatus with remotely controlled deck guns as well. So, it was only a matter of time before someone conceived a radio-controlled firefighting device. Jack McLoughlin, founder and president of Fire Research Corporation, did just that, only this radio-controlled device is aimed at more than just firefighting.
The Little Guy
FRC’s remotely controlled robot is called the Little Guy. It is approximately 400 pounds and will fit into a 32-inch doorway. It can climb over debris and up a few stairs. “The final unit will have some modifications so it will hold approximately 800 to 1,000 feet of five-inch hose,” says McLoughlin. “[Firefighters must predetermine] how far the fire is from the water source so the correct amount of hose is deployed.”
The prototype has a deck gun rated at 1,000 gallons per minute (gpm) with an Elkhart radio-controlled monitor. It can also drag a few hundred feet of five-inch hose. “The cart section has a self-contained remote quick disconnect to eliminate any hang-up problems in case the vehicle has to be to be returned to the starting position,” says McLoughlin.
The device’s 400-pound weight includes lighting, infrared sensors, a self-protection nozzle, and hazmat detection. “A cutting system is in the works,” says McLoughlin, “that will add a few pounds.” He adds that the Little Guy is designed to be picked up and placed on a roof by a rated aerial platform, where it will cut a hole in a roof to extinguish a fire.
Specs and Applications
Much like the alternative lift system covered in the September 2011 Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, the Little Guy is a tool that will be used for unique circumstances. McLoughlin initially sees the device being used for industrial firefighting using water and foam and hazmat reconnaissance. However, when you consider the following, the possibilities are practically endless.
The unit is controllable, in the present configuration, for up to a quarter mile. It is transportable via a pickup truck with a ramp and attains a top speed of two miles an hour while pulling a cart with up to 1,000 feet of five-inch hose. It can climb a small number of stairs and, with its robotic cutting devices, can force entry.
The Little Guy will operate at up to four hours of intermittent use. The prototype’s deck gun is an Elkhart Brass with smooth bore, automatic fog, or foam nozzles. Hoselay is limited to 1,000 feet at a flow rate of 1,250 gpm. “There are no friction loss concerns using the maximum flow rate as described,” asserts McLoughlin.
Additionally, it has a self-cooling nozzle and transmits infrared information, live video data, and pertinent technical data back to the command post.
Only the Beginning
Once one company invents the next best thing, engineering-minded folks immediately start to think of ways to improve the original idea. McLoughlin claims the door on this technology is just opening. “We have applied for a number of patents and believe this technology has just started to evolve,” he says. “It will obviously be useful in situations where it would be inadvisable to commit a firefighter.”
To view a video demonstrating the Little Guy, visit http://www.fireapparatus.com. Free copies of the video are available by calling (800) 645-0074.
CHRIS Mc LOONE, associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is an 18-year veteran of the fire service and a captain with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. While with Fire Engineering, he contributed to the May 2006 issue, a Jesse H. Neal Award winner for its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery.