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IFSJ Exclusive: Next Generation Firefighting vehicles

Magirus talks about how firefighting is entering a new level of efficiency and safety with tactical robots, drones and digital solutions

With the presentation of the new generation of turntable ladders with SmartControl, digital solutions like TacticNet or FleetConnect and a brand-new series of fire-fighting and tactical response robots, Germany-based manufacturer Magirus has developed a product portfolio with intelligent networking in many key areas of firefighting.

Its digital-innovative evolution has set new standards for the operational capability, effectiveness and safety of fire brigades. Located in Ulm, the traditional company started its journey to the “Next Generation Firefighting” more than two years ago and presented in the meantime a series of innovative products and solutions to face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges of fire-fighters all around the world.

The premiere of the Wolf R1 robot

With the premiere of the powerful, flexibly deployable tactical response robot with a completely electric drive, Magirus expanded its product range of robotic vehicles at the Civil Protect trade fair in Bolzano in September 2021. The company was taking the next logical step in the field of robotic, remote-controlled firefighting and emergency vehicles. The Magirus Wolf R1 was specially developed to meet the significantly increased requirements of complex, high-risk operations. It combines performance and multifunctionality that are unequalled in this class.

The Magirus Wolf R1 tactical robot allows firefighters to stay out of harm’s way in conditions of intense heat, collapse dangers, hazardous materials investigations or poor visibility, while persevering on the spot with complete precision. Specialised camera systems enable all-round visibility; robust data transmission solutions ensure that the operations command is always supplied with the latest live images and videos. The all-electric crawler drive with 1,050 Nm torque allows the Wolf R1 to move purposefully and quietly on the most difficult surfaces and to act flexibly.

Its performance is particularly useful for high-risk firefighting, reconnaissance, and security tasks. The operational robot has a tractive force of up to four tonnes and reaches a top speed of up to 15 km/h. Its battery capacity is particularly high and can function without tools and can be almost endlessly extended by means of an exchangeable battery. Furthermore, the Wolf R1 features an intuitive and flexible control via radio remote-controlled visual guidance with a range of up to 150 metres, or alternatively, as command control via a system carrier vehicle with a range of up to 2,500 metres.

Tactical mission support

When used with Magirus’s TacticNet tactical operations network and drone escort, the robot holds unrivalled potential, opening up a new level of safety and maximum transparency for mission commanders in difficult-to-access, large-scale, munitions-laden areas, forest fires, tunnels, or the reconnaissance of hazardous situations.

The tactical operations network offers an unprecedented overview of the entire operational area which gives the incident commander a complete overview of the entire operational area at all times live and in real-time allowing the best possible decisions and the best possible action. The WiFi-based and location-independent network also offers the possibility of integrating any number of units and task forces.

The network’s services range from establishing a WiFi-based local network and the provision of livestreams from camera and thermal imaging drones as well as combining map information, images and deployment positions of vehicles and personnel to the map-based selection of units for effective command and control of task forces.

Thanks to the integration of a wide range of information sources, the incident commander and decision-makers on all levels have access to all relevant information quickly, comprehensively and even under challenging circumstances such as limited visibility or difficult terrain conditions. On this basis, the right decisions can be made effectively, allowing the deployment task forces and equipment with maximum safety and efficiency.

TacticNet spans a robust, local mesh operation area network in which participants are linked together via the monitor in the command vehicle, separate tablets and mobile phones. It is location-independent and can be expanded as required. TacticNet allows to superimpose static maps and dynamic images of the respective operational areas as well as information on the locations and status of task forces and vehicles, for example, and, in future, also infrastructure data. HD video communication provides access to unfiltered live information in real-time for everyone involved in the decision-making chain.

The more complex an operational situation is, the more important it is to have up-to-date and comprehensive information. TacticNet provides a decisive safety advantage by displaying the live positions of all units and restricted areas, for example: restricted areas can be directly taken into account in the instructions of incident commanders, avoiding danger zones. Particularly in complex situations such as rapidly spreading building fires, extensive forest fires or large fires in industrial plants, TacticNet offers a completely new quality of situation assessment and provides an extremely valuable basis for quick, targeted decisions, enabling even more successful operations.

Across the Alps

Eight years after the unveiling of the first robot from the AirCore family and only several months after its premiere, the history of Magirus’ remote-controlled and remote-operated tactical units continued with the handover of the first Magirus Wolf R1 in Ehrwald on 18 May 2022. In an extraordinary ceremony on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, the company handed over the world’s first tactical response robot to the Ehrwald Volunteer Fire Department in Austria.

Björn Scherer, Chief Fire Inspector of the Ehrwald Volunteer Fire Department, is particularly proud of the latest, sustainable expansion of the brigade’s technology and equipment: “In Ehrwald, we are a small, but very innovative fire brigade. The topography and tourism pose special challenges for us. The range of operations is very diverse, yet all the locations must always be quickly and safely accessible – especially off-road, in tunnels and in underground garages, this is not always easy. We have been searching for a long time for solutions to quickly reach deployment scenes that are difficult to access without putting our firefighters in danger. The Magirus Wolf R1 response robot allows us to do just that.”

A new era begins

On the part of the District Fire Brigade command and the District Fire Brigade inspectorate, represented by District Fire Brigade Commander Dietmar Berktold and District Fire Brigade Inspector Konrad Müller, a clear commitment was made to innovative, effective and, above all, protective and supportive equipment for the emergency services.

“The tactical response robot allows firefighters to remain outside the danger zone in the event of intense heat, danger of collapse, hazardous material investigations or poor visibility, while the robot is in action right there with full precision,” says Berkold. “The attached subframe developed for Ehrwald enables the most flexible mounting options for diverse firefighting equipment.”

Thomas Hilse, Magirus CEO, backs this: “Being able to hand over the first Magirus Wolf R1 on the Zugspitze is truly exceptional. Within special applications, robotic and networked solutions are developing rapidly and offer far-reaching advantages in the field. As a tactical operational robot, the Wolf R1 brings safety and efficiency, but also precision, flexibility and tremendous performance.” The Magirus Wolf R1 was developed together with its partner Alpha Robotics Deutschland GmbH and has already been extensively tested and used in practice by fire brigades in Lower Saxony.

According to Hilse, the handover is a further step in “Next Generation Firefighting”, which is already available to emergency services today and clearly demonstrates Magirus’ innovative strength in this field. The company will consistently pursue this path in the coming years and thus provide fire brigades all over the world with the most modern and reliable technology.

This article was originally published in the June edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.