A remote control for firefighter safety1 February, 2021
Distance from the aerial platform – and an unmanned rescue cage – is a valuable asset to all operators. Particularly when there’s a risk of explosions, injury or debris, firefighters need a way to get close to the fire without endangering themselves or their team.
Jouni Törnqvist, Head of Advanced Research and Development at Bronto Skylift, explains how firefighters can carry out all basic functions on their aerial platform from afar. This increases firefighter safety and the versatility of the unit.
Raising the bar for firefighter safety and ergonomics
Bronto Skylift developed the remote control in cooperation with Abitron, a leading manufacturer of safety radio remote controls. Safety and weight were the most important criteria during development.
“The remote control’s design was driven with the firefighter in mind, duplicating the control layout found in the rescue cage and making it as simple as possible to find the most critical functions fast,” says Jouni Törnqvist, Head of Advanced Research and Development at Bronto Skylift.
Weight has always been an issue in remote controls because of operator ergonomics. The Bronto remote weighs just over 2kg. It is robust enough to be used in difficult conditions at fire sites, but light enough for the operator to handle for a long time.
A recent development includes a tablet that can be attached to the radio remote control. This expands functionality further still, bringing the wide capabilities of the Bronto+ control system to the fingertips of the remote operator. From the tablet, the user can control e.g. the water pump and foam mixing system. The tablet can also pull in a live video feed from a camera mounted on the rescue cage or elsewhere, offering enhanced situational awareness to the team from a safe distance.
The range of the remote is 100 metres in open space, and 200 metres when equipped with an additional antenna. The radio remote control is meant to be used wirelessly, but a wired option is also available – useful in situations where use of radio frequencies is banned, like in mines. It’s possible to retrofit the remote control on machines up to 15 years old.
The remote carries all the basic functions of an aerial platform in a compact package. This includes controlling boom movements and cage rotation, telescoping the boom in and out, and starting and stopping the engine. The user also has easy access to water monitor controls, the horn, and work lights. In case of an emergency situation, the remote has an emergency stop button. It is available to all aerials with a Bronto+ control system.
A safer future
A new version of the remote is already in the works. Its weight will be further reduced, and it is able to utilise country-specific radio frequencies, making the device easier to use around the world.
Remote operation will make major leaps in the coming years, from operating multiple aerials from one remote station to increasingly autonomous machines. For example, we are studying ways to use artificial intelligence to improve the rescue and fire extinguishing process.
We intend to develop remote operation and automation as much as possible in the coming years as a way to support the decision-making of firefighters and increase safety.