Unmanned fireboat could be a game changer

FEBRUARY 5, 2018 — A radically new remotely-operated, unmanned fireboat promises to allow first responders to attack dangerous port fires more aggressively and safely than ever before.

Developed by Vancouver-based naval architectural and marine engineering firm Robert Allan Ltd. and Kongsberg Maritime, the uncrewed RALamander fireboat will offer in-close firefighting and "eye in the fire" capabilities to keep firefighters out of harm's way.

With RALamander, fires involving containers, petrochemicals, shore-side structures or vessels can be attacked more quickly in situations where toxic smoke or explosion risk could delay or prevent manned assets from responding effectively. RALamander can serve as a force multiplier with conventional firefighting assets, or be deployed on its own.

The Kongsberg Maritime control & communications system will feature a high-bandwidth, low latency wireless link to a semi-portable RALamander operator console that can be located on a manned fireboat, or other vessel of opportunity such as a tug or pilot boat. In common with other Kongsberg autonomous control systems, the architecture of RALamander's control system will leave the door open to a range of autonomy levels, which are configurable or future-upgradable to suit evolving needs.

The first in the series, the 20 m RALamander 2000, will be equipped with Fi Fi 1 capability with a total pumping capacity of 2400 m3/hr with optional foam. A retractable mast can bring one of the three monitors to a high point of attack for shipboard or dock fires. A range of auto functions is planned for firefighting, including dynamic positioning, water spray target holding, and "line protection" where RALamander automatically moves back and forth along a line while directing protective spray cover on shore structures or vessels threatened by a fire. A low-profile design also makes it possible to attack under-wharf and marina fires remotely. If a burning vessel poses a threat to its surroundings, RALamander can be used to tow it a safe distance by means of its Grapnel Emergency Towing (GET) system.

RALamander's versatility may also offer new ways to maintain and operate a port firefighting asset. Since RALamander can be operated from a safe stand-off distance during an incident, commercial entities such as tug or pilot boat operators might be in a better position to offer fire protection services to a port since personnel are less exposed to risks.

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