When wildfires strike, they can sweep across massive swathes of land at incredible speeds. When their rampant progress brings fires into populated areas, firefighters quickly find their hands full trying to keep the fire at bay, while simultaneously searching for those caught behind the flames. Smoke and flame can reduce visibility and hamper any rescue attempts firefighters make under these very dangerous conditions.
In an attempt to reduce the danger these brave men and women face, engineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a robotic scout which can enter particularly dangerous areas. The robot is equipped with 3D thermal-imaging cameras that can provide firefighters with real-time 3D imagery — imagery that can help save lives.
Meant to be small, cheap and autonomous, each robot may not make it out of each fire, but for every robot lost, a human firefighter will have been kept out of harm's way. Now that's a future we'd be happy to live in.