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Purdue’s firefighting robot rolled into Wednesday’s fire at the Hoopeston, Ill., tire shredding factory with something to prove. When it limped out four hours later, it was broken, but it made its mark.
“We were able to deploy this and put it approximately 150 to 175 feet into a partial collapsed warehouse facility,” Purdue Fire Chief Kevin Ply said Thursday morning as the department showed off the battle-tested machine. “From that location, we were able to apply water on some of the plant that was not accessible from other means.
“It did have an impact.”
The relatively small, 400-pound, orange robot travels on thick rubber treads and takes its marching orders from a remote control panel worn by the operator.
“Some of the firefighters, both volunteer and career, from the many fire departments that were there, were a little skeptical,” Ply said. “But, once we were able to deploy it inside the structure, they were able to see it in operation and the impact it was making on the fire, it was very impressive.”
Ply, along with two other Purdue firefighters, took their prototype firefighting robot to help fight the fire.
“We were able to deploy it in an area that had fire involvement, to the point where we had partial building collapse,” Ply said. “It was an area we were not going to put a human firefighter in, due to the risk of injury.”
Professor in Purdue’s College of Technology Eric Dietz is helping develop the robot for a Korean company. He says the use the fire department was able to get out of it was invaluable.