Photo (DRZ): DRZ robot Telemax
21 Nov 2023

Coming Soon: Sharing Practical Experiences with Using Robots in Fire & Rescue


How much personal risk is still necessary when technology could help? Robotic technology, such as unmanned ground, aerial and underwater vehicles (UGVs, UAVs, AUVs) are now available to do the the most dangerous tasks. 

Some of these highly risky tasks could be rescuing victims in buildings at risk of structural collapse or entering flashover. Sometimes, there could be hazardous materials or explosives inside, making an entry for human rescuers particularly dangerous.

The CTIF Commission for Extrication and New Technology is soon launching a new project which involves sharing Lessons Learned from using Robotics in Fire & Rescue. 

These will be personal stories from the responders who have used these technologies in real-life incidents, including why they chose robotic assistance and what they have learned from using these technologies. 


Photo (DRZ): Control post of the robot-assisted reconnaissance team during a DRZ field exercise

Emergency responders involved in the incidents listed below have told us that robots would have been helpful: 

 Basement fire in an apartmentwarehouse fire with lith.ion batteriesfire in a parking garage, fire in an industrial complex gas explosion in an apartmentexplosion in grain storageCO leak in a basement,… 

These, and many other incidents faced by firefighters and other emergency responders (ER) involve unknown, uncertain, complex and dynamic situations. They often undergo personal risks during operations, in order to save and protect lives and property. 


Photo (DRZ): Control post of the robot-assisted reconnaissance team during a DRZ field exercise


What is important is to learn to recognize when risks in any situation are about to become too large to send in a human crew, and where a technological solution could be a better choice. 

The potential of robots to alleviate some of the pressure felt by ERs and contribute toward safer and more efficient operations has been recognized by innovators in the ER community already a long time ago. 

For example, Prof. Achilles, the director of Director of the Fire Department and Head of the Fire Brigade Frankfurt am Main, Germany, envisaged robotic helpers for fire fighting already in the early 70s. (Illustration from the book “Brandschutztechnik 1972).   


(picture from the book “Brandschutztechnik” 1972).

Fukushima sparked a greater interest in Fire & Rescue Robotics

Research and development in the field of robot-assisted disaster response took off and made considerable progress after the 2011 Fukushima accident

There are many research groups, projects, workshops,  conferences and competitions. However, the results have only slowly been making their way to ER practice so far. 

Are the tides changing? Over the last decade, we have witnessed an uptake of aerial robots for reconnaissance, thanks to widespread drone commercialization. Which firefighter does not at least have a colleague who has tried it?

As for ground robots, early adopters are using tele-operated robots and some progressive ER organisations have started to establish special robot-equipped ER units, see for example, Team Digital Exploration in the Netherlands or the Robotics Task Force in cooperation between the German Rescue Robotics Center and the Fire Department Dortmund in Germany. 


Photo (DRZ): Robotic task force command vehicle and robot fleet

Photo (DRZ): Robotic task force command vehicle and robot fleet


Many first responders are still skeptical:  CTIF wishes to change the narrative by sharing stories

A recent study among German firefighters reported at the Annual Meeting of the vfdb (Association for the Promotion of German Fire Protection)  shows high interest in this topic and readiness to work with semi-autonomous robotic systems. 

At the same time, the participants saw many obstacles to the successful introduction of these new technologies in fire and disaster protection, ranging across operational features, human factors, costs and legal issues. 

Many ERs still tend to be skeptical of whether the technology will make them more efficient and effective. 

Time for action? The CTIF recognizes the huge potential of robotic technology for fire fighting and beyond. 

For wider adoption of robots, CTIF considers it extremely important that the community shares experiences about the use of robots in practice. 

To support such exchange, the CTIF Commission for Extrication and New Technologies is launching a new project in cooperation with the German Rescue Robotics Center (DRZ), a non-profit organization founded in 2018 to promote demand-oriented development and practical introduction of innovative robot systems to assist in the rescue and protection of people and property.

The project will collect information about robot deployments and publish articles about them on the CTIF website. 

Photos by DRZ
Text by: Ivana Kruijff Korbayova | Deutsches Rettungsrobotik Zentrum e.V.


This article is part of the project "Sharing Practical Experiences with Using Robots in Fire & Rescue” of the CTIF Commission for Extrication and New Technologies in collaboration with the German Rescue Robotics Center.

DRZ logo

The first article will appear soon, so stay tuned. 

Are you using robots, have you done a robot-assisted deployment? There will be an online form that you can fill in, so you too will be able to share your experience and have it published here.

In the meanwhile,  if you have a story to share you can always write to the web editor of CTIF.org.

Hendrik Rust (2023)  „Studie zu Bedarfen und Erwartungen der Feuerwehren bei neuen Technologien im Brand- und Katastrophenschutz”. Tagungsband 69. Jahresfachtagung der vfdb. Münster. pp. 179-187. ISBN 978-3-936050-36-3.