Potential recruits to the U.S. Navy might soon look a bit different. The Navy wants to use robots as firefighters. These robots would take the place of sailors fighting fires on carriers and other ships. The bots are essentially human in form and are capable of recognizing flames, opening doors, climbing ladders, and carrying supplies.
However, there will be a person standing nearby giving the robot voice and hand commands. The robots will even have an English-recognition system that allows them to interpret these commands, as officials say firefighting requires a lot of teamwork and following orders is crucial. This summer these bots will be put to the test on a ship for the first time. In Mobile Bay, Alabama in August 2014, the ex-USS Shadwell is going to be set on fire and the robots will go into action. If everything works out, then in just a few years the bots could work as full-time firefighters in the Navy, thus saving lives and limiting the number of dangerous situations sailors are put into.
While replacing humans with robots sounds like a great idea, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Just ONE firefighting robot costs about one million dollars to build. The price could decrease if the Navy is able to finalize a prototype and use mass production, but either way it would still be very costly. And surely the bots will need some sort of maintenance over time, which will cost more money. Is a couple million dollars’ investment in these bots really worth it? Either way, it will be interesting to see how the firefighting robots fare in the organized testing fire in August and what the future will be for these humanoids.Nicole Krusen, Graduate Student Master of Arts in Emerging Media Loyola University Maryland