Robot that can save lives is unveiled

AN "IMPRESSIVE" search robot, capable of going into concealed areas firefighters and rescue teams cannot enter, was unveiled in Durban yesterday.

AN "IMPRESSIVE" search robot, capable of going into concealed areas firefighters and rescue teams cannot enter, was unveiled in Durban yesterday.

"We are very happy with what we have achieved so far and we want to improve it so that it can give far better results," KwaZulu-Natal University mechanical engineering lecturer Riaan Stopforth told journalists about the prototype.

"We decided to design this robot because of rescuer lives lost during rescue operations." The robot - described by the eThekwini municipality's fire department as "impressive" - weighs 56kg and will be able to transmit video information before firefighters start their rescue operations. It can travel over very rough ground using wheels that move inside metal belts, like those on a tank.

During demonstrations, the remote-controlled robot was able to make sharp turns and "shrink" to squeeze into confined spaces.

Stopforth said the robot would help save time and lives as many hours were lost when rescuers failed to enter a building due to unsafe conditions.

"Over 300 firefighters died at the World Trade Centre during the September 11 attacks in 2001. Rescuers often enter areas that have unstable structures, not knowing that there are no people to rescue."

He said 65 of the more than 300 firefighters at the World Trade Centre died because they searched in confined spaces that flooded.

He said the research team was trying to ensure the robot was able to operate near fires and could withstand temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius.

Lenny Naidoo, of the eThekwini municipality's fire department, said the robot was an "impressive" start.

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