Scientists build the real C-3PO to fight fires on board warships

Emma Clark – Daily Mail Oct 14, 2012

A robot with the ability to fight fires on board warships has been developed by military scientists based on the popular Star Wars character C-3PO.

It might sound like something out of another galaxy, but the life-saving robot will be tested next year on U.S navy boats.

ASH, the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid, will have the capacity to operate in smoke-filled areas, climb ladders, pass though narrow corridors and even react to human gestures in order to put out lethal blazes.

A breakdown shows exactly how the robot has been built to fight fires.

The robot is being developed by scientists at RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) at Virginia Tech University, who are working with the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C on the robot-human interaction side of the project.

The scientists took inspiration from the popular 35-year-old film character C-3PO when drawing up early prototypes.

Sensors and an infrared camera on its ‘face’ will be able to interpret human gestures, even through thick smoke, allowing the robot to take directions from people.

ASH’s ‘arms’ will be able to operate hoses, extinguishers and other fire-fighting materials.

It’s structure is made out of titanium and aluminium and powered by a battery which will provide power for around 30 minutes.

It is hoped that ASH will be able to tackle even the toughest of blazes, which pose a great threat to lives of crew on warships.


ASH will be tested on board US Navy warships early next year.

It comes after Virginia Tech developed CHARLI-1, who was able to move in all directions and perform simple tasks using his upper body, as part of their robot programme.

Professor Dennis Hong, from the university, told the Sunday Express: ‘It is walking now and will start testing on a Navy ship early next year but that does not mean that it is complete.

‘It still needs a lot of things done, such as protection against heat and flames, sensors, navigation, fire-fighting behaviours.’

ASH’s hand and sensor coordination has been hailed as a breakthrough in robot technology.

Earlier this year a $1.5 million (£930,000) competition to create a humanoid which can carry out life-threatening work was launched by the secret Defence Projects Agency.

They would be used in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, industrial accidents or natural disasters by the U.S. military, who hope to increase their use of robots.


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