Ship­board Fire­fight­ing

NRL sci­en­tists have de­signed a ro­bot, which can move au­tonomously throughout the ship and fight fires

SP's NavalForces - - FIRST / COVER STORY - Con­tin­ued from page 3 Nu­clear:

Sci­en­tists at the Naval Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory (NRL) have formed an in­ter­dis­ci­plinary team to de­velop a hu­manoid ro­bot that could fight fires on the next gen­er­a­tion of com­bat­ants. A hu­manoid-type ro­bot was cho­sen be­cause it was deemed best suited to op­er­ate within the con­fines of an en­vi­ron­ment that was de­signed for hu­man mo­bil­ity and of­fered op­por­tu­nity for other po­ten­tial warfight­ing ap­pli­ca­tions within the Navy and Marine Corps.

The fire­fight­ing ro­bot, called the Ship­board Au­ton­o­mous Fire­fight­ing Ro­bot (SAF­FiR), is be­ing de­signed to move au­tonomously throughout the ship, in­ter­act with peo­ple, and fight fires, han­dling many of the dan­ger­ous fire­fight­ing tasks that are nor­mally per­formed by hu­mans. The hu­manoid ro­bot should be able to ma­noeu­vre well in the nar­row pas­sages and lad­der ways that are unique to a ship and chal­leng­ing for older, sim­pler ro­bots to nav­i­gate.

The ro­bot is de­signed with en­hanced multi-mo­dal sen­sor tech­nol­ogy for ad­vanced nav­i­ga­tion and a sen­sor suite that in­cludes a cam­era, gas sen­sor, and stereo in­frared (IR) cam­era to en­able it to see through smoke. Its up­per body will be ca­pa­ble of ma­nip­u­lat­ing fire sup­pres­sors and throw­ing pro­pelled ex­tin­guish­ing agent tech­nol­ogy (PEAT) grenades. It is bat­tery pow­ered that holds enough en­ergy for 30 min­utes of fire­fight­ing. Like a sure-footed sailor, the ro­bot will also be ca­pa­ble of walk­ing in all direc­tions, bal­anc­ing in sea con­di­tions and travers­ing ob­sta­cles.

An­other key el­e­ment of the SAF­FiR de­vel­op­ment is to al­low dam­age con­trol per­son­nel and the ro­bot to work co­he­sively as a team. Al­go­rithms are be­ing de­vel­oped to al­low au­ton­o­mous mo­bil­ity and de­ci­sion-mak­ing by the ro­bot as a team mem­ber. To en­able nat­u­ral in­ter­ac­tion with a hu­man team leader, the ro­bot will have multi-mo­dal in­ter­faces that will en­able the ro­bot to track the fo­cus of at­ten­tion of the hu­man team leader, as well as to al­low the ro­bot to un­der­stand and re­spond to ges­tures, such as point­ing and hand sig­nals. Where ap­pro­pri­ate, nat­u­ral lan­guage may also be in­cor­po­rated as well as other modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and su­per­vi­sion.

Re­searchers from Vir­ginia Tech and Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia are also work­ing with NRL on the project. They plan to test the fire­fight­ing ro­bot in a re­al­is­tic fire­fight­ing en­vi­ron­ment on­board the ex-USS Shad­well late in Septem­ber 2013. Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) to float global ten­der to im­port two sub­marines. Time in ob­tain­ing CCS ap­proval is of essence, as the ‘ac­cep­tance of ne­ces­sity’ for P-75I is valid only up to Au­gust 2012, fail­ing which the ac­qui­si­tion process would suf­fer an­other de­lay of two years or more.

If July 26, 2009, was a wa­ter­shed for in­dige­nous de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear sub­ma­rine, end Fe­bru­ary 2012 will be her­alded as the ma­jor mile­stone, when 6,000 tonne, INS Arihant be­gan sea ac­cep­tance tri­als (SATS), af­ter suc­cess­ful cul­mi­na­tion of ‘har­bour ac­cep­tance tri­als’ phase. The SATS and ex­ten­sive mis­sile tri­als are expected to ex­tend over six months, on com­ple­tion of which, the first in­dige­nous nu­clear sub­ma­rine will be com­mis­sioned. Arihant, the first in the se­ries of three SSBNs should be in­ducted into the In­dian Navy by the end of 2012, to emerge as the most ef­fec­tive third leg of the nu­clear triad. Arihant is said to be car­ry­ing 12 x K-15 sub­ma­rine launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles (SLBM) with a range of 750 km, with both con­ven­tional and nu­clear war­heads. Ad­di­tion­ally, it will be fit­ted for car­ry­ing con­ven­tional tor­pe­does and anti-ship and land at­tack cruise mis­siles. Re­port­edly at a later stage, Arihant and its two suc­ces­sor SSBNs will be fit­ted for un­der de­vel­op­ment 3,500km, K-4 sub­ma­rine launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles, a sea-based ver­sion of the Agni-III with en­hanced-range to pro­vide cred­i­ble sec­ond strike ca­pa­bil­ity. To ac­quire much needed train­ing and oper­at­ing phi­los­o­phy of nu­clear pow­ered sub­ma­rine, ahead of Repub­lic Day 2012, INS Chakra, leased Rus­sian Akula-II class SSN, Nerpa was com­mis­sioned. Chakra will be equipped with Klub mis­siles with a range of 300 km, four stan­dard-sized torpedo tubes and will be with In­dian Navy on a 10-year lease. Re­ports sug­gest that In­dian Navy has plans for three SSBNs and six SSNs to ac­quire cred­i­ble sec­ond strike ca­pa­bil­ity, in the long run. The In­dian Navy has on or­der 12 Boe­ing P-8I, long-range maritime re­con­nais­sance, anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare (LRMRASW) air­craft. These would be de­liv­ered by 2015. In a ma­jor boost to the In­dian Navy’s naval avi­a­tion mod­erni­sa­tion plan, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) has re­cently ap­proved the pro­cure­ment of nine medium-range maritime re­con­nais­sance (MRMR) planes worth $1 bil­lion and the lim­ited se­ries pro­duc­tion of nine car­rier-borne LCA (Navy), Te­jas to op­er­ate from IAC. The ac­cep­tance of ne­ces­sity for nine MRMR air­craft af­ter eval­u­at­ing data pro­vided by global ven­dors in re­sponse to the re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) was is­sued al­most a year ago. The orig­i­nal re­quire­ment was for six air­craft which has now been in­creased to nine. The MRMR deal will also have an op­tion for ad­di­tional planes, if needed by the In­dian Navy in fu­ture. The re­quest for pro­pos­als (RFPs) or ten­ders is expected to be is­sued in sec­ond or third quar­ter of the year. Ear­lier, the RFI for MRMR air­craft was is­sued to Boe­ing, Lock­heed Martin, ATR, Saab, Air­bus, Casa, Em­braer, Bombardier and Das­sault.

The nine LCA (Navy) for the 40,000 tonne IAC will be pro­duced by the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL). IAC, which is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion at the Cochin Ship­yard Ltd, will de­ploy about 30 com­bat air­craft in short take­off but ar­rested land­ing (STOBAR) con­fig­u­ra­tion. The LCA (Navy) pro­to­types have Gen­eral Elec­tric F404 en­gines pro­vid­ing about 80 kilo­new­tons of power that In­dian Navy feels is in­ad­e­quate for a car­rier-borne com­bat air­craft. There are se­ri­ous mis­giv­ings that the in­dige­nous LCA (Navy) Mk.1 may never ac­tu­ally land on an air­craft car­rier, as re­port­edly, the air­craft is too un­der­pow­ered for safe car­rier op­er­a­tions. There­fore, In­dia’s first home-built car-

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Vir­ginia Tech

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