Los Angeles City Fire Department unveils robotic firefighting vehicle

The Los Angeles City Fire Department has debuted the first robotic firefighting vehicle in the United States and used it on its first day in service. The robot is made by Textron: Howe & Howe Technologies and is called the Thermite RS3. The robot is compact and has a low center of gravity along with a wide chassis and is classified as an industrial robotic firefighting vehicle.

It can flow 2500 gallons per minute and is remotely operated by a controller that provides operators with HD video feedback for maneuverability in rugged terrain. The department says that the RS3 isn't the answer for all types of firefighting. It will assist with safe interior fire operations on large commercial fires, wood-frame structures that are under construction, structural defenses and wildfires, large animal rescues, fuel tanker fires, auto storage fires, and more.

The LAFD Foundation received a generous donation to purchase the robot and donated it to the fire department. The foundation notes that without the support received from donors, it would've been impossible to add the technology to its fleet. The same day the robot was unveiled publicly, it had already been put to use at an early morning Major Emergency commercial structure fire.

The robot will be stationed at Fire Station 3 in downtown LA and will be part of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. It's deployed from a trailer specifically for the machine that's towed by a pickup. Operators at the fire department were trained with assistance from developers at Textron. Those officers are considered trainers and will help develop other operators throughout the department.

The robot has impressive specifications and is powered by a combustion engine giving it 20 hours of use without refueling. Specifications are as follows:

  • 3500 lbs.
  • 5'5"wide
  • 5'5" tall
  • 7' long
  • 8 mph top speed
  • 8,000 lbs. winch
  • 50% slope
  • 35% side slope
  • Front Plow blade to push debris, including vehicles
  • Compatible for Interchangeable accessories for future needs
  • 36 HP Diesel engine
  • Run time of 20 hours without refueling
  • Hose stream reach of 300 ft. horizontal & 150 ft. Vertical
  • 2,500 GPM