A group of researchers led by Professor Hyun Myung of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed an unmanned aerial vehicle, named the Fireproof Aerial Robot System (FAROS), a wall-climbing scout drone which detects fires in skyscrapers, searches the inside of the building, finding the source of the fires and locating people trapped inside and transfers data in real time from fire scenes to the ground station.
According to Professor Myung “As cities become more crowded with skyscrapers and super structures, fire incidents in these high-rise buildings are life-threatening massive disasters. The FAROS can be aptly deployed to the disaster site at an early stage of such incidents to minimise the damage and maximise the safety and efficiency of rescue mission.”
Skyscraper fires are particularly difficult to contain because of their ability to spread rapidly in high-occupant density spaces and the challenge of fighting fires in the buildings’ complex vertical structure. Accessibility to skyscrapers at the time of the fire is limited, and it is hard to assess the initial situation.
According to the report, the drone, whose movements rely on a quadrotor system, can freely change its flight mode into a spider’s crawling on walls, and vice versa, facilitating unimpeded navigation in the labyrinth of narrow spaces filled with debris and rubble inside the blazing building.
The drone “estimates” its pose by using a 2-D laser scanner, an altimeter, and an Inertia Measurement Unit sensor to navigate autonomously. With the localisation result and using a thermal-imaging camera to recognise objects or people inside a building, the FAROS can also detect and find the fire-ignition point by employing dedicated image-processing technology.
The FAROS body is covered with aramid fibers to protect its electric and mechanical components from the direct effects of the flame. The aramid fiber skin also has a buffer of air underneath it, and a thermoelectric cooling system based on the Peltier effect to help maintain the air layer within a specific temperature range.
The research team also demonstrated the feasibility of the localisation system and wall-climbing mechanism in a smoky indoor environment. The fireproof test showed that the drone could endure the heat of over 1,000° Celsius from butane gas and ethanol aerosol flames for over one minute.