The video: Firefighting is dangerous work, so why not send in the machines? Enter Thermite, an ultra-durable, remote-control mini-tank conceived for the U.S. Army, but finding new work as a firefighting robot that can go where humans can't. Defense contractor Howe and Howe Technologies originally designed Thermite, which weighs in at 1,300 pounds, to neutralize Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in combat zones, equipping it with a hose that pumps out 500 gallons of water per minute with the aid of a mounted camera. (Watch a demonstration below.) The key to Thermite's firefighting prowess is an innovative new cooling system that ingeniously prevents its sensitive electronics from overheating: As Thermite pumps water at a fire, "it first passes some of it through its own internal veins as liquid coolant," says Mark Wilson at Fast Co. Design. "It can even transform its roll cage into a giant sprinkler system, using cooling fans to suck in its own shower of mist if heat reaches critical levels."
The reaction: Thermite's pump rate "compares favorably" to the 1,500 gallons per minute of a standard fire engine, says Nathaniel Wattenmaker at Dvice, a bargain when you consider that, at $98,500, this trooper costs "an eighth of what an engine does." Better still, it's uniquely suited to enter areas of "extreme hazard," says David Szondy at Gizmag. Since it can be operated from up to a quarter of a mile away, it's perfect for fires in refineries, chemical plants, or nuclear facilities. While Thermite is "no substitute for human firefighters," it "does provide an alternative to sending people into extremely dangerous situations," and might just be the future of firefighting. Take a look:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- The real lesson of the looming Martha Coakley disaster
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- How the brides of ISIS are attracting Western women
- How to live a long life, according to science
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- For Democrats, the right lesson from 2014 is to be more liberal
Subscribe to the Week