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SnakeFighter
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Published March 30, 2005

Some time ago, a research scientist at SINTEF had an idea. Why not enable a fire hose to move on its own? This way it can crawl into a burning building and extinguish a fire on its own without putting human beings at risk. Shortly after, SINTEF decided to build this robot. The project, initiated in 2003, was named SnakeFighter.

The idea behind SnakeFighter is to equip a fire hose with water hydraulic actuators that enable it to move like a biological snake. This will enable the fire hose to move on its own and perform challenging interventions such as fire fighting. The resulting system is a water hydraulic snake robot. The advantage of a snake robot instead of a robot with wheels or legs is that a snake robot will potentially be more robust and have better traversability in hazardous and irregular environments.

The ingenious behind this idea is that the energy the system needs in order to move is already available inside the fire hose. A fire hose contains water pressurized to 100 bar (1450 PSI). Actually, water has three functions in a SnakeFighter system since it can be used for:

  1. Fire extinguishing (by putting out the fire with water)
  2. Cooling (by cooling the robot with water)
  3. Hydraulic actuation (by moving the joints of the robot with pressurized water)

In order to demonstrate the SnakeFighter concept, SINTEF decided to build a water hydraulic snake robot. The robot was named Anna Konda and is to our knowledge the world’s first water hydraulic snake robot and also the biggest and strongest snake robot ever constructed. Anna Konda is 3 meters long and weighs 75 kg. The water hydraulic actuators that move the joints of the robot are custom-built and give the robot enormous strength. Anna Konda moves like a biological snake and can also raise its head to spray water.

Fire-fighting is only one of several applications of this system. Subsea operations (maintenance of oil and gas installations) and explosion prevention are other relevant applications.

More information about our snake robots

  

There are many applications of a complete SnakeFighter system in addition to fire fighting. In general, the system may be regarded as a transportation system for arbitrary sensors and tools in challenging, inaccessible and/or hazardous environments. The application of the system is dependent on the sensors and tools that the robot is equipped with. Some relevant applications of a SnakeFighter system are illustrated below.

Tunnel fires

A SnakeFighter system permanently installed in a road tunnel can be mobilized if a fire develops inside the tunnel. The mobilized snake robots could for example perform active fire fighting, provide rescue personnel outside the tunnel with live video feeds, and provide survivors inside the tunnel with oxygen and communication capabilities.

 

Explosion prevention

A SnakeFighter system can be used to perform preventive efforts in environments with a high risk of explosion without the need for sending people into this environment.

Subsea operations

By giving a SnakeFighter robot the ability to swim and move under water, it can be used for inspection and maintenance of subsea installations. These will typically be installations on the sea bed used for the production of oil and gas.

Search & rescue operations

A snake robot is long, flexible and slim. This makes it ideal for motion in tight and inaccessible environments. A SnakeFighter system can therefore be used to search for survivors in the ruins of a collapsed building for example after an earthquake.

Snake robot search and rescue

Service robots

Robots for the home and consumer market are becoming more common in our society today. A possible application of a SnakeFighter system in this setting could be a robot for watering and weeding plants in your garden by connecting the robot to a water outlet in this garden.

SINTEF is currently pursuing collaborating partners in order to aid the development of a complete SnakeFighter system. The Department of Engineering Cybernetics at NTNU is involved in the project through master’s and doctoral theses.

Contact person at SINTEF Applied Cybernetics: Aksel Transeth