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For many years there are terrible forest fires in the U.S. (for example); I was wondering about pro-active measures ( I'm sure there are many). One possibility is using a small army of robots that are designed to 'go anywhere' and act like 'artificial goats' eating any dry brush or grass. Of course another army of robots could ,using local water from a lake or streams, fill up with say 100 gallons each ( if designed for this) and spray water everywhere even without a fire emergency. This might sound silly but you have a lot of robotic derigibles carrying 1000 gallons of water or more slowly floating over a forest sprinkling water everywhere like a mild shower. So could certain 'robot armies' be used to fight the dry conditions in a forest?

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    $\begingroup$ Such schemes would mess up the ecosystems. Many (?most) actually rely on fire in order to clear trees. $\endgroup$ – winwaed Sep 26 '14 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Robot goats? That sounds like electric sheep. What's wrong with real goats? $\endgroup$ – gerrit Sep 26 '14 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ it's illegal to fly drones in any national wilderness areas. the fine is in the thousands $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe Sep 27 '14 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ IF it was done by some government sanctioned company for the purpose of preventing fires or fighting them I'm sure 'robotic' blimps could carry large amounts of water where it's needed ( with no fines). $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 2 '14 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ I saw recently on the weather channel it mentioned two engineering students who made a device that could put out a fire with sound waves. They thought of mounting it on drones to fight fires. $\endgroup$ – 201044 Apr 13 '15 at 2:29
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This is counterproductive, both ecologically and economically, and is also well beyond the capabilities of current robots.

Ecologically counterproductive
Forests have evolved to live with, and in many cases, to depend on forest fires. Aggressive fire prevention by the US Forest Service and other agencies throughout much of the 20th century resulted in unintended consequences. Many native species need fire to reproduce. For example, the pinecones of lodgepole pines remain sealed shut for years and only open when exposed to the high heat of a forest fire. Decades of active fire suppression led to the replacement of some of those native species by invasive ones.

Another unintended consequence was making large fires even larger. Some of the most intense fires happened in areas where small fires had been successfully suppressed for a number of years. The resultant buildup of dead wood, brush, and smaller trees gave fires a way to spread to the canopy level, something that didn't happen so often when small fires regularly burned away that lower level of fuel.

Economically counterproductive
One of the biggest fire threats to people is those people who insist on living in forested areas and then let the trees grow right next to their houses. The simplest solution: Don't do that then! The Forest Service and others offer education to homeowners on how to make their homes more fire resistant, and in some cases, polices areas to ensure homeowners are following some minimum standard.

Another solution, one not yet adopted by the Forest Service, is an approach taken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with regard those who live in the most flood-prone areas. After flooding one too many times, FEMA essentially forces homeowners to sell their houses at market value to FEMA. FEMA then promptly tears them down and marks the area as uninsurable. This might appear to be a waste of money, but in the long run it saves FEMA money, and potentially saves lives. Texas and some other states take even more drastic measures with coastal properties. A house is condemned once the coast line has eroded to the point that it is closer than some minimal distance of the house.

We can't build such robots, yet
The terrain where forests grow is not exactly suitable to robots. Much of the forested land in the contiguous US is mountainous. What isn't mountainous is dotted with bogs, swamps, and lakes. The weather is often rather nasty. An autonomous robot that could navigate and survive through such terrain is far in the future. Adding the ability to clean up terrain is even further in the future.

Aggressive fire suppression requires clearing out shrubs such as chaparral, which is rather tough stuff, dead and down trees that can be several meters in diameter, and small to medium sized non-canopy trees whose trunk can be up to a meter or so in diameter. This is not the job for little goat-sized robots. This is a job for an industrial-sized robot, and ED-209 won't cut it.

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    $\begingroup$ Any remotely controlled or radio controlled 'drones' coordinated by Human operators or even a computer system using satellite navigation could be built. Each drone could be designed like an all-terrain 'lawnmower' if they are built to shred dry shrubs etc. Or a drone could spray water from a river ,say to 'moisten' an area. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 27 '14 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ What are these "rivers" of which you speak? Human firefighters would long ago have taken advantage of them if they existed. Look at the places devastated by forest fires in California and Colorado. They don't have rivers conveniently criss-crossing the fire-plagued area. In California, those fire zones don't have rivers, period. There's maybe a creek bed or two, long dry because of persistent drought. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Sep 28 '14 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ If a 'small' army of robotic all-terrain vehicles that were controlled by some G.P.S. computer system ; if each robot could be directed to ANY river or body of water to temporarily fill up their tanks with water then move out to dry spots to drench the area then return ; this might help fight tinder dry brush. Also I mentioned larger possibly robotic blimps that could carry large amounts of water that the helicopters and planes use to fight fires. These blimps could hover over various forest areas raining down water. Robots (today) could be used to resolve the dryness problem in forests. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 29 '14 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ If it was sucessfully adopted fighting dry conditions or fires in a forest would save 'tons' of money , if property was saved and would save insurance cost. IF trees and plants were saved it would be ecologically valuable. The drones used in the Army are remote control robots that are helped by G.P.S. tecnology so the robots I mentioned could be built today. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 2 '14 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't fire fighters be greatly assisted by self-navigating robot fire-fighters or at least remotely operated robotic fire-fighting assistants maybe carrying a BIG container of water or fire retardant. Any robotic 'assistants' could be built to withstand great heat. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 6 '14 at 19:13
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It has been suggested that proper management of large herds of goats, cattle, deer, or elephants on the land are effective in preventing desertification. So perhaps this could be used to mitigate conditions leading to excessive grass and forest fires. Maybe your idea would scale-up more effectively if the robots were set to manage large herds of animals that themselves do what herbivores do to control fuel, fertilize, and cultivate forest and grassland.

So perhaps 'robot goatherds' rather than 'robot goats' is what you need.

I really don't know if this would be a good idea or not but you may find this TED talk about using stock animals to combat desertification very interesting.

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    $\begingroup$ IS society ever going to use robots in fire fighting or protecting police or helping paramedics etc,; USING robots to help in society was thought of about 100 years ago. Robots are used on assembly lines and that's about it. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 27 '14 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ Remote controlled robotic assistants COULD help fight fires or clear flammable brush.. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 14 '14 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ There are robotic vacuum cleaners and robotic lawnmowers (I think). So an all terrain lawnmower could be built that is robotic controlled by a Global Positioning System and a remote operator. This robotic all terrain lawnmower could get rid of combustible brush. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 25 '14 at 18:24

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