Robot Pill Bugs Put Out Fires

Sometime in the future, 200-pound bugs may be roaming around the forests. That's not due to any increase in oxygen levels, but rather because these bugs are robots whose job it is to extinguish forest fires.


Researchers from the University of Magdeburg-Stendal in Germany have developed the robot fire-fighting pill bug called OLE. The robot takes after real pill bugs - which are also known as potato bugs and roly polys - in several ways.

 For one thing, OLE has interlinking armor, which composes its fireproof suit. Unlike the pill bug, however, OLE is made of fire-resistant ceramic fiber compounds that can withstand temperatures of up to 1850 degrees F. Plus, it has GPS and heat sensors, as well as water tanks and fire extinguishers.

 OLE normally walks on its six legs, and can reach speeds of up to 20 km/hr. But it can also curl up into a ball in times of danger - perhaps its most significant pill bug trait. When balled up, its shell can protect its electronic insides until it's safe to unravel.

 The researchers hope that an autonomous OLE might be used to detect and extinguish forest fires, which destroy more than a million acres per year in Europe alone. With their ability to detect heat from a fire from up to half a mile away, the robotic pill bugs might also be used near towns and campgrounds, where they would remain balled up until they sensed a fire.

 The researchers predict that the robot would cost between $125,000 and $200,000.

 via: Popular Science

May 16, 2008
by Anonymous


Who is going to pay for my new pair of pants when this thing shows up at my site and blows foam all over my campfire? That might not taste so good on the Smores.