The quadcopter whines in midair, situated inside a room. A jutting obstacle blocks its path to the room’s other side, only allowing a slim margin for the quadcopter to pass through. But the drone looks too big. It hovers near a wall before the tight gap, and flips on its top, rolling along the wall until it passes to the other side.
Developed by researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the Fireproof Aerial Robot System (FAROS) is a new unmanned aerial vehicle, which is meant to detect and navigate fires in skyscrapers while relaying real-time data to ground crews.
“As cities become more crowded with skyscrapers and super structures, fire incidents in these high-rise buildings are life-threatening massive disasters,” said Prof. Hyun Myung, of KAIST’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept. “The FAROS can be aptly deployed to the disaster site at an early stage of such incidents to minimize the damage and maximize the safety and efficiency of (a) rescue mission.”
The FAROS is an extension of the research team’s Climbing Aerial RObot System (CAROS), created in 2014. Navigated autonomously, the drone uses a 2-D laser scanner, an altimeter, and an Inertia Measurement Unit sensor to explore its surroundings. Image-processing technology allows the vehicle to detect the fire-ignition point, and thermal0imaging camera allows it to identify objects and people.
Additionally, the drone’s body is shielded with aramid fibers, which protect the electrical and mechanical components from flames. A buffer of air is situated beneath the aramid fibers, and is maintained with a thermoelectric cooling system based on the Peltier effect, which keeps the air at a specific temperature range.
During a fireproof test, the researchers showed the drone was capable of enduring heats over 1,000 C from both butane gas and ethanol aerosol flames for over one minute.
The team is currently working to improve the fire resistance of the drone’s sensors, including the 2-D laser scanner and the thermal-imaging camera.