On various tech blogs I've read quite a bit of excitement about these firefighting drones being pioneered in China.
I think about it. The test shown in the video below shows the firefighter drone extinguishing flammable material suspended outside the building on scaffolding.
How does a real fire in an apartment building originate?
A plausible scenario: an overloaded multiple socket or a defective appliance produces a spark. The spark spreads on the carpet, on the furniture, on the curtains. We now have a lot of plastic and foam-containing furniture in our homes, which is why fires spread very, very quickly.
Fires like these need to be fought from the inside, which is why tall buildings have water connections within them. It also takes men and women inside the building to go door to door, occasionally knocking them down to save the residents. And we also need firefighters on top of the building.
The firefighter drone can't do any of these things yet.
It could, however, be of great help in correcting what can only be called a serious (and sadly common) architectural defect: the use of flammable coatings.
With low brick and stone buildings, the fire doesn't spread outside, as those materials don't burn. The fire spreads from inside the building, going from apartment to apartment, consuming the wooden door frames and plastic-filled furniture.
But steel skyscrapers are a different story. These structures are coated, theoretically using fire resistant zinc coatings on the market.
Having a lot of skyscrapers have high coating costs. This is why some architects, construction companies or property owners fall back on aluminum cladding panels, which cost much less. These aluminum panels contain a polyethylene insulation layer. In a fire, aluminum can melt and, once the fire hits the polyethylene layer, the panel is knocked out. Fire can spread from panel to panel outside the building.
This choice has proven to produce disastrous results.
Remember the Grenfell Tower disaster in London? Two Italians also died: Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi. The builders had approved a fire-resistant zinc coating. However, to reduce costs, what had been specified in the restructuring contract was "A cheaper aluminum coating with a polyethylene core" to "save" 293.368 pounds (about 360.000 euros at 2017 exchange rates).
Here is an image that shows all the savings derived from that choice.
72 dead. The fire was incredibly difficult to fight. As reported by the BBC, "Fire safety experts say the cladding used on the Grenfell Tower is the likely reason the fire spread so quickly making it impossible to contain the fire floor by floor."
A couple of months later, the Dubai skyscraper, cruelly called Torch Tower, caught fire (for the second time). The causes? Absolutely similar.
In summary: the cladding that looks so modern, cheap and common to many skyscrapers around the world burns like hell and cannot be controlled.
That's what a fireman drone is for
So I would say that that fireman drone could be of great use in cases like these, working in synergy with the firefighters. Waiting for the drones (in addition to other things) can do this on their own, saving both the lives of the occupants and the rescuers.
Gianluca Riccio, born in 1975, is the creative director of an advertising agency, copywriter and journalist. He is affiliated with Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists. Since 2006 he directs Futuroprossimo.it, the Italian resource of Futurology.
Futuroprossimo.it is an Italian resource of futurology opened since 2006: every day news about the near future. Scientific discoveries, medical research, prototypes, concepts and predictions about the future for free.
Gianluca Riccio, copywriter and journalist - Born in 1975, he is the creative director of an advertising agency, he is affiliated with the Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists.