Purdue University researchers are improving on existing robotic firefighter designs with a new feature that would eliminate an obstacle present in their current design.

To improve the maneuverability of the firefighting robot, which has already tested successfully in the field, researchers equipped the robots with automatic T-valve systems that enable the robot to drain hose water before moving to another location within a burning structure. This measure will improve robot energy expenditures, as it requires significantly less energy to pull an empty fire hose than to pull one filled with water. Removing this obstacle, according to researchers, will enable the robot to move faster and more efficiently throughout a burning structure.

Working in collaboration with the Purdue University Fire Department, the team believes that robots equipped with the new T-valve system may save firefighters' lives as they could be deployed in environments that are unstable or unsafe for humans.

"This discharge valve invention could be the next transformation of the fire service that saves lives," said Eric Dietz, director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and a professor of computer and information technology in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. "This invention further enables the firefighting robot by adding to the robot mobility and saving lives within the fire service and, most importantly, with the public. With this improvement, the firefighting robots are better able to save lives and protect property."

Firefighting is just one of the jobs bound to undergo a transformation as automation is expected to take over more and more workplace tasks. Shades of this have already been seen recently as reports have emerged about robotic wait staffs, caregivers and police officers.

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