Fire Services gets underwater robot to aid in rescues

Local | Cindy Wan 24 May 2019

A remote-controlled robot will be introduced by the Fire Services Department to aid in underwater missions, such as searching for missing people in shipwrecks.

The underwater robot will be ready for use in October, director of Fire Services Li Kin-yat said.

Li said the department has been upgrading their equipment to deal with various extreme conditions that arise in rescue missions.

The box-sized underwater robot is equipped with a multibeam echo-sounder system and cameras to deliver images to its operators above.

The department spent HK$1.35 million on the robot and it has been placed at the Central Fire Boat Station.

"We bought the robot earlier this year, but it still has not been put to use because we are still training officers to operate it," Li said.

The department's technicians are training six officers who are responsible for marine operations to use the robot, so that they will be able to control it to help divers in future rescue missions.

The six officers are also expected to teach their colleagues after being trained.

The robot comes with multiple functions, such as measuring the depth of the water, orienting and navigating at a maximum speed of five nautical miles per hour.

The device body has a set of robotic arms, three sets of cameras with 1080p resolution and a multibeam echo-sounder system.

It is only 70 kilograms in weight, while its volume is 83 centimeters by 58 centimeters by 50 centimeters.

Meanwhile, the Fire Services Department has urged mini-storage operators to adhere to fire safety standards after a hazardous fire erupted at a mini-storage in Ngau Tau Kok and claimed the lives of two firefighters in June 2016.

The department has issued 3,016 fire hazard abatement notices at mini-storage facilities since 2017. But only 1,795 notices were acceded to by last month.

Li said 167 of about 600 facilities have fulfilled the safety requirements, while around 300 are undergoing improvement works. He said improvement works in industrial buildings can take a long time, and the department will allow extra time for operators as long as they are making progress.

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