Colossal Achievement: Half-Ton Firefighting Robot Helps Save Notre Dame

Colossus-Feature-Image
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The battle to save the 856-year-old Notre Dame involved more than 500 firefighters. The effort was partially successful — despite a tremendous amount of damage, the cathedral is not a total loss. That’s thanks in part to a new 1,100-pound firefighting robot, dubbed Colossus.

Colossus, which looks a bit like someone mated a tank with a Big Dog mower, is specifically designed for firefighting. For an in-depth discussion of the challenges of this type of operation and how it related to Notre Dame specifically, firefighter Gregg Favre has posted some of his own observations and thoughts below:

One of the problems with fighting the Notre Dame fire was that the wood of the structure is ancient timber and could come crashing down on top of the firefighters at any time. Colossus was deployed in this scenario to safely deal with problems that were deemed too risky to send in firefighters to handle. A video of the robot in action at Notre Dame, specifically, is below:

Colossus is designed to operate in difficult conditions and is capable of either carrying equipment into an area or helping to drag wounded people away. It’s handled by a remote control operator up to a thousand feet away and measures ~5.25 feet long, 2.5-feet wide, and a bit less than 2.5-feet tall. Designed by French company Shark-Robotics, the mobile firefighting unit collaborated with two drones — a DJI Mavic Pro and a Matrice M210 to direct water towards the hottest part of the structure. The drones were used for thermal mapping the top and exterior of the building to better understand where the fire was burning. The ability to send in Colossus allowed firefighters to prioritize saving the structure without risking human life to timber falls from the roof or any additional damage posed by the renovation equipment scattered throughout the cathedral.

No one was killed at the Notre Dame fire, though two police officers and one firefighter were reported injured. Notre Dame wasn’t in very good condition to start with and contained far more wood than might have been immediately visible from the exterior. The cathedral’s roof was built with 5,000 oak trees that were 300-400 years old when they were laid down 856 years ago. This height made it difficult to fight the fire directly with water streams, and much of the wood is now destroyed. Stonework and at least some of the art and artifacts survived. The debate over how best to reconstruct the ancient building is already underway.

Feature image by Shark-Robotics

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