As flames swept through the 800-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, threatening priceless religious treasures and the entire structure's integrity, crucial help in battling the ferocious blaze came from an unlikely source.
Colossus, a 1,100-pound robot that resembles a tank, was able to deftly maneuver into dangerous parts of the horrific conflagration amidst conditions that would have threatened the lives of firefighters.
The robot, which is produced by a French company called Shark Robotics, used a motorized water cannon that reportedly fired more than 660 gallons per minute at the cathedral's famous stone walls. According to the company, Colossus is about 2.5 feet wide and 5.25 feet long and can be operated by a joystick from almost 1,000 feet away.
The commander of the Paris Fire Brigade, Jean-Claude Gallet, credited Colussus with lowering temperatures inside the ancient cathedral's nave and saving human lives amid the unfolding disaster.
“Time was against us, the wind was against us and we had to get the upper hand,” Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for the fire brigade, told the Times of London. “The priority we set was to save the two belfries. Imagine if the timber of the belfries had been weakened and the bells had collapsed. That was really our fear. In the beginning, it was not impossible to imagine that the cathedral structure could collapse.”
The heroic robot is also resistant to thermal radiation and completely waterproof, according to Shark Robotics. The company's site says the machine’s lithium ion batteries can last for up to eight hours, and the robot can be equipped with cameras, sensors and a smoke-extracting fan.
According to experts, other countries are also developing robots to assist in fighting fires.
Brian Lattimer, the vice president of research and development at the safety engineering and consulting firm Jensen Hughes, told The Washington Post that operating in dangerous environments is just one part of the appeal of firefighting robots, and that as the technology improves, the robots will help in other ways.
“The goal will be for firefighters to be in the loop with these robots to assist and evaluate the hazards so they can plan an effective response,” Lattimer told the Post. “Eventually, we’ll have collaborative teams of robots – in the air and on the ground – that will work closely with people and reduce the risk to human life.”