A robot on fire

Since last December, while children of his age were busy with schoolwork or cricket, 14 year-old Amey Nerkar from Nashik was busy conceptualising and designing a fire-fighting robot.

Nashik resident Amey Nerkar has built a fire-fighting robot by assembling parts from his old toys. 

The teenager, a Class 9 student of Rachana Vidyalaya, was deeply pained after he saw images of a tragic fire at AMRI Hospital in Kolkata on December 8, 2011, which killed 89 people. “A lot of patients at the hospital died as the firemen weren’t able to reach them because of the smoke,” says Nerkar. “It struck me that if there could be a machine that could penetrate the smoky area and control the fire, the firemen could have had a passageway and could have saved more people.” That is the main idea behind his fire-fighting robot, as he calls it.

With the help of toys
The body of the robot was built using spare parts from his old toys. “Currently, the body of the robot is made of plastic but the actual model should have a coating of a fire-proof material like kohler. The material costs about Rs 10 lakh per sq mt,” says Nerkar. “I dismantled the DC motor of one of my old remote-controlled toys and fitted it to the robot so that it could move,” explains Nerkar. Nerkar attached a webcam so that firemen sitting outside could gauge the situation inside, but recommends that the fire department use a thermal imaging camera. “Such cameras also have human body sensors which help firemen identify where the people might be trapped,” he adds.

His science teachers and his father, who is an electronics professor at a junior college in Nashik, helped him with his dream innovation. “Amey came up with ideas on how he intended to assemble the robot. We guided him about whether they were practical or not,” says Narendra Nerkar, Amey’s father.

Fire-fighting features
The robot’s smoke detector can detect the type of fire based on the nature of the smoke emitted. “There are five types of fire and depending on it, the firemen decide whether to use water or carbon dioxide to douse it. My model has one type of smoke detector, however, the actual model can have different types of smoke detectors like LPG smoke detector, for instance, that will infer the nature of fire depending on the smoke emitted,” adds Nerkar.

The robot has a water jet as well as a carbon dioxide outlet to douse fire. “The temperature of any place under fire is always above 1,000 degrees Celsius. The robot’s water sprinkler continuously sprinkles water to bring down the temperature of the affected area, thereby making it easy for firemen to save people.” It also has laser lights for better visibility despite the smoke and a siren that will continuously ring to caution people to move in the direction of the robot. This will help firemen locate people who are trapped.

However, Nerkar has not given artificial intelligence to the robot. “The robot would not be able to take crucial decisions as whether to control the overall fire at once or rescue a trapped human. In such cases, it is very important for a human mind to be behind the rescue operations,” says Nerkar, who wants to become a scientist when he grows up. “Firemen can control water supply, carbon dioxide emission and laser light control, etc with a remote control,” explains Nerkar.
“My robot cost approximately Rs 2,000 to build. However, if professionally made, the cost of the fire-fighting robot could go up to approximately Rs 35 lakhs depending upon the type of material used,” he adds.

Trip to the fire station
Nerkar held a demonstration at Nashik’s fire station. Chief Fire Officer, Nashik Fire brigade, Anil Mahajan, who inspected the robot for its utility, says, “Nerkar’s concept is very good and if the robot is professionally made, it would greatly benefit the fire department and the people affected in a fire accident.”

Nerkar wants to obtain a patent for the machine, and is currently preparing the paperwork for a demonstration at the National Innovation Foundation at Ahmedabad. “We want to start production of the robot, but we lack financial resources. If we obtain a patent and resultant financial help from the Centre, it would be possible for us to commercially produce the robot,” says Narendra.

“Besides saving the lives of the trapped people, the robot will also save the lives of innumerable firemen who die while saving people’s lives,” signs off Nerkar. 

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