DEVELOPMENT OF A DUAL MODE ROBOTIC FIRE VEHICLE

OGWUCHE Destiny Innosuccess

Mechanical Engineering Department, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.

ogwuche.innosuccess@gmail.com 

ABSTRACT:

This project work is on the development of a dual mode robotic fire vehicle using radio frequency technology and autonomous control, at this stage of development the designed robot has the capability of fighting class A fires using radio frequency technology for remote operation, the vehicle is loaded with a water tanker, two DC motors are used for locomotion and a DC water pump for suction, these motors are controlled from a distance over a wireless communication between the Bluetooth HC-06 and a motor control app installed on an android phone. The Robot is programmed to stop and release sprinkles of water before the robot hits the target. An Arduino microcontroller (atmega-328) is used for the overall desired operation. The entire system is powered by a 12V Lead – acid rechargeable battery. The robot has a dimension of 0.37m by 0.28m by 0.12m and navigates through a modeled floor plan with an average velocity of 0.05m/s to extinguish a simulated fire in 5 to 10 seconds.

KEYWORDS: Robot, microcontroller, fire, motors

NB: This Project won the top three award at the Engineering and Entrepreneurship Innovation Competition organised by CODET(Committee of Deans of Engineering and Technology) Abuja

  1. 1. INTRODUCTION

Since time immemorial fire has been considered as one of the elemental forces influential to Life on the earth. The Greeks took fire as one of the unique four vital elements which make up the biosphere- beside water, earth and air. Over the times the understanding of fire has changed and advanced. Rather than being just an elemental force, modern science has led us to recognize fire as Chemical process of Combustion. They are several possibilities a fire can start in any remote area or in an industry for example an incident occurred; March 12, 2011—the day after a great seismic activity and tidal wave struck the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station—a group of Nuclear experts set out to go into the dark reactor structures and physically create an aperture so that stored hydrogen would go off into the atmosphere. Initially, they seemed to be making progress but not until their dosimeters indicated that they had reached their full radiation contact restrictions, thus they made their way out but In the days that ensued, with apertures still shut, hydrogen built up in every of the reactor buildings resulted in explosions that expansively damaged the facility, polluted the environment, and extremely made complex remediation and reclamation of the site.

Robots are any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort, though it may not resemble human beings in appearance or perform functions in a humanlike manner. By extension, robotics is the engineering discipline dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots. This Project idea can be used for controlling and helping manual fighters work up to an extent, this model has limited components comparing to real time idea as it is experimental, by designing this firefighting robot people and property can be saved. This works covers the development and fabrication of a Machine that can extinguish fire. The robot receives instructions from its various basic hardware components through a microcontroller. The robot will extinguish fire on a controlled terrain as soon as the fire is identified the robot 

through the wireless communication using a Bluetooth module moves towards it and actuates an electronic valve inside a water pump which releases sprinkles of water on the fire through the hose. It is powered by 12V battery

It uses DC motors and motor controller locomotive system for motion, a Bluetooth module for sending information to an Android phone using radio frequency (RF) for control, pump and sprinkler system and an Arduino Microcontroller. The Microcontroller is the command center of the robot it controls all the parts of the bot by the use of programming specifically C++.

 OBJECTIVE

 To develop and design a robotic fire vehicle and write a program that will actuate all the locomotion and activities of the robot using the PIC as the key control system designsuch that it will extinguish fire by throwing water at it, in the most efficient method by navigating through a controlled terrain and extinguish fire by throwing water at it. The robot would make use of Microcontroller, battery and actuators and is built with cheap, easily obtainable and workable locally sourced materials so as to reduce the manufacturing cost greatly and to make it affordable for small scale home and industrial use.

 METHODOLOGY

Flowchart methodology

 

Block diagram showing how the robot implements its functions

 

Circuit Diagram

MECHANICAL PART DESIGN

The body kit also known as the chassis or base is used to shield the electronic circuit from any obstacles especially liquid which may lead to the malfunctioning of the electronic circuit. All components of the robot will be attached directly to the chassis; therefore a durable yet light chassis will be ideal. Chassis are made from many different kinds of materials; some common types are plastic, aluminum, acrylic steel, acrylic and high density polymer, for this project plywood will be used based on availability and cost and the fact that it is a prototype. When considering the choice of shape of the chassis, it is significant to think about the impact of collision area as well as maneuverability so that the robot will not get stuck in corners considering the fact that it is wheeled mobile robot thus rounded or chamfered edges is the best choice of shape.

Apart from the chassis the other mechanical part is the steering system which includes the wheels and Direct Current (DC) motors for transmission or locomotion. The body kit of this robot was designed using solidworks 2015 SP 2.0. It has two wheels at the rear side and a free castor wheel at the front that is used to stabilize and rotate the robot 360⁰. It was designed to be a single layer hexagonal piece of plywood with room to accommodate all the necessary hardware on the board, this include the circuit board and its respective components, the microcontroller, battery, DC water pump and the water tanker. Each component was designed in the part section and was coupled together in the assembly section the choice of a hexagonal shape was based on stability of the system and ability to navigate around corners.

Design of body-kit with Solidworks software

 

COMPONENTS DETAILS

1. Arduino Microcontroller (Atmega-328):The Arduino microcontroller is like a little command center that is set to receive orders or instruction it has twenty input output pins, acts as input so they can read levels of voltage from something or they can act as output so they apply 5V or 0V, digital pins 3, 5, 6,9,10 and 11 are used for pulse width modulation that is they can adjust the amount of voltage they apply between 0V and 5V. Pins 0 and 1 are transmitting and receiving serial communications respectively, Analog pin headers 0-5 allows for analog to digital conversion they take infinite amount of variation in an analog signal and digitizes it into small steps, the reset button allows the Arduino to start all over again at the beginning of the program, the ground pin gives access to the lowest voltage on the board. An Arduino microcontroller is versatile, easy to use, relatively inexpensive, simple to program and it is open source.

  1. DC Motors: The purpose of direct current motor is to create rotational motion, they require direct current source and are capable of operating with adjustable speeds over a wide range and are perfectly suited for accurate and flexible speed control using pulse width modulation. Their use is restricted to special applications where their requirement compensates the much higher installation and maintenance costs. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to control and adaptable but major disadvantage is that the brushes wear off after a period of time.
  2. Bluetooth HC-06: it is an electronic brick serial module that is used for converting serial port to Bluetooth, it consist of Bluetooth serial interface module and Bluetooth adapters and enables  transparent wireless connection between electronic devices it finds application in Bluetooth hands free device , Bluetooth GPS , Bluetooth data transfer etc. In the case of this project the module permits the microcontroller with a standard RS232 serial port to communicate with the Smartphone equipped with a Bluetooth master module, which enables communication between the robot and the motor control app installed on the android phone. It is easy to use, has a plug and play with a resetting button and status indicator
  3. Motor Driver L293D: Motor drivers are utilized to portray the bearing of development of the robot. It is utilized to give high voltage and high momentum as a yield to run the engines which are utilized as a part of the undertaking for the development of the robot L293D is a double H-span engine driver incorporated circuit (IC). In its basic method of operation, two DC engines can be driven all the while, both in forward and turn around course. The engine operations of two engines can be controlled by information rationale at pins 2 and 7 and 10 and 15. Info rationale 00 or 11 will stop the relating engine. Rationale 01 and 10 will pivot it in clockwise and anticlockwise bearings, separately.

 

  1. Relay:Relays are signal actuated switching device special kinds of switches in which the switches are activated by a small electromagnetic coil which allows a very small amount of current needed by the coils to switch larger currents and voltages by means of the switch contact, it can be electromechanical or fully electronics without no moving device. Relays are more often an interface design. Switches are used as sensors when their actuators are connected to a sensing device.
  2. DC Water Pump: A pump is a gadget that moves liquids (fluids or gasses), or some of the time slurries, by mechanical activity. Pumps can be arranged into three noteworthy gatherings as per the strategy they use to move the liquid: direct lift, removal, and gravity pumps. Pumps work by some instrument (ordinarily responding or rotating), and devour vitality to perform mechanical work by moving the liquid. Pumps work through numerous vitality sources, including manual operation, power, motors, or wind power, come in numerous sizes, from infinitesimal for use in therapeutic applications to expansive modern pumps. Mechanical pumps serve in an extensive variety of utilizations, for example, pumping water from wells, aquarium separating, lake sifting and air circulation, in the auto business for water-cooling and fuel infusion, in the vitality business for pumping oil and normal gas or for working cooling towers. In this project it is used for throwing water.
  3. POWER SUPPLY

In electronic circuits powered by direct current, the voltage source is usually a battery which produces a constant voltage and a constant current through a conductor. A 12V sealed lead acid battery is used for the project, it is a rechargeable electrochemical cell having an electrolyte , a large cell of this type can store several tens of ampere hours smaller units have less capacity but are more versatile, cost effective and can be charged and discharged many times, their major drawback is weight.

THE ANDROID APP

The android application was built online using MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) app inventor, this application communicates with the robot wirelessly through radio frequency for the control and direction of all the motors.

 MODE OF OPERATION

 Remote Control:As soon as the fire is identified the robot is controlled from a distance over a wireless communication between the Bluetooth HC-06 and a motor control app installed on an android phone, the android application has soft buttons for direction (forward, reverse, right and left), spray and stop. The Robot is programmed to stop and release sprinkles of water before it hits the target, by creating a hotspot using Wi-Fi shield the robot can stream video of its location through the webcam to the user thus enabling it to be controlled even when out of sight.

Autonomous Control: The robot is sent into a building with a controlled terrain to scout for fire, an ultrasonic sensor and a GSM Module/Bluetooth Module are attached to it for obstacle avoidance and sending of notifications to appropriate authority respectively, it is interfaced with a raspberry pi board and a camera for digital image processing (high level control), the modelling of a fire involves three parameters which are colour, heat and smoke. For a start we begin the image processing with pattern recognition of two concentric circles, red and blue in the inner and outer circle, then we proceed to colour variation in the RGB(red, green and blue) scale to model the colours of fire (this is the current stage of the research) and finally at an advance stage we hope to use data mining to feed the system with several pictures, videos and real time examples of fire, the reason for the adoption of this final approach is because review of several Robotic literatures suggests sensors like thermistor and smoke detectors have been used we want to use the method known as data fusion to incorporate digital image processing into this already developed systems to enable for greater perception (Artificial Intelligence) and efficiency.

RESULT AND DISCUSSION OF RESULT.

Construction of body-kit and placing of motors

 

From the performance test conducted the flow rate of the water pump was observed to be 1.32*10-5m3/s, this value was attained by using a stopwatch to determine the time it will take for a litre (1*10-3 m3)of water to get emptied the time taken was 76 seconds. It was also observed that the rate of flow of water gradually increased from 0-7th second before it became uniform.

Construction of the electronics circuit

The positional placement of the pump determines how fast it will pump and how much energy it demands thus the initial design placement of the water bottle was altered. The efficiency of the pump depends upon the pumps configuration and operating conditions such as rotational speed, fluid density and viscosity. For a typical pumping configuration work is imparted on the fluid.

Simulations and Testing

The robot was programmed to move right, left, backward and forward, at the Bluetooth HC-06 end the two motors and water pump are interfaced to the microcontroller to control the movement of the robot, the red soft button on the centre of the graphical user interface is for stop, F9 button is to switch ON the water pump and the left, right, forward and backward soft buttons for their respective direction, a depression of any of this button will send serial communication to the Bluetooth module which sends command to the microcontroller to switch the relays, the relay in turn allow current to be channeled to the motors which effects the motion, the Bluetooth range is 5-8m

Performance test of the entire system

Holes were created on the body of the robot and a heat sink to allow for heat exchange so that the electronics will not get over heated.

Testing

It was a bit disappointing to note that although the motors were gotten from the same source (rechargeable electric fans) with similar ratings their speed were not exactly the same, it was assumed that since the specifications and manufacturer of the fan are same the torque/speed would be same unfortunately it was not(it could be due to mechanical faults from the factory of the manufacturer or better still the costly assumption made) this was discovered during the testing of the whole system, the effect is that it would limit the efficiency of the linear motion of the robot (i.e. it cannot travel perfectly in a straight line), pulse width modulation was used to adjust this speed to be as close as possible.

Final coupling

It took the robot 7 to 10 seconds to extinguish the simulated fire created by lighting pieces of paper with a matchstick and observing the time it takes for the fire to get extinguished. There is an inverse relationship between the pump flow rate and time taken to extinguish fire; the greater the flow rate the lesser time it takes to extinguish fire.

Completed Robot

The whole system is powered by a 12V rechargeable lead-acid battery; it discharges very quickly when powering the entire system thus limiting how long it can last, to reduce this effect, the battery was refilled with acid and recharged. An experience realized during the course of this project is that not all specification written on datasheets are true, this could be due to the low quality components imported from Chinese companies based on compromise.

APPLICATIONS

  1. The main purpose of this project is to save life and properties.
  2.  It would be valuable to have this in server rooms, hospitals, parks, offices, factories and forests to minimize threat to human life, financial loss and ecological consequences.
  3. Can be used to remotely or autonomously send relief materials to patients with contagious diseases (Tuberculosis, Ebola, etc.).
  4. Through the use of the webcam it can be used to scout a building that may contain harmful chemical or bombs by sending pictures or videos of what it sees.
  5. Can be used as a sprinkler system for watering Plants.
  6. Finds application in space and can be used as a prototype for the “pathfinder” sent to mars in 1998 which revealed the secret of mars

LIMITATIONS

The major drawbacks include; little battery hours, low stock of water and inability to fight all classes of real life fires due to the fact that it is still an experimental model.

CONCLUSION

A select vision of the conceptions which are used in this specific field has been presented in this work. It resolves to stimulate technology innovation to accomplish a dependable and effectual result to the problems of fires as it concerns the safety of humans and their possessions. A robot that will navigate a controlled terrain and extinguish fire by throwing water at it by means of wireless communication with an android phone, through appropriate programming and circuitry developed from cheap, easily obtainable and workable locally sourced materials has been designed and built. This project has test the knowledge, dexterity and problem solving skills that were learned over the course of the last five years, it also served as a platform for the acquisition of basic experiences in the field of mechatronics. Experimental work has been carried out carefully and successfully, the proposed technique is confirmed to be very useful for engineering and safety purposes, as it is known in recent times Nigerians are tired of colossal fire disasters, to curtail such misfortunes technological power must exceed human power because human life is invaluable, this robot will sooner or later work autonomously or with fire fighters by method of swarm greatly reducing the danger of injury to victims, through this it can be concluded that a robot can be used to extinguish fire before the arrival of fire fighters or in place of humans indirectly, thus reducing the threat to life and valuable properties. Altogether this has and will continue to be a remarkable learning experience at the university.

RECCOMENDATION

Since this preliminary work cannot address the entirety of all the features within the framework and vision, for a better, more effective and efficient system further research and developmental efforts are needed to fully implement this, through a joint effort of various entities modifications can still be done to improve on the development of the robotic fire vehicle, the suggested recommendation include;

  1. The use of digital image processing to enable it detect fire after several testing by use of pattern recognition(machine learning) and variation in RGB colour scale using the proper algorithm
  2. To fight all classes of real life fire the water tanker can be replaced with a CO2 fire extinguisher or the physics of projectiles can be to shoot out fireballs at the fire when it is detected.
  3. Interfacing the robot with more sensors (like thermistor, ultrasonic sensor, photistor etc.) and a wireless camera so that the robot would avoid obstacle, sense fire and viewing the operation of the robot on display.
  4. The use of all terrain wheels, robotic arms and possibly hovercraft technology will enable the robot to move almost anywhere (including climbing of stairs), and sprinkling of water through the robotic arms. In hovercraft technology the movement of the robot machine is characterized by forces arising from air pressure developed around the craft which supports a significant portion of the weight and enables it to hover in close proximity to the surface of the earth, this would offer a more accurate navigation.
  5. Battery efficiency in terms of more ampere hour and lesser weight is another area of research that should be looked into.

Ogwuche Innosuccess is a young graduate Engineer with a flair and passion for Design, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He is also a web developer and Researcher with over two years of experience developing websites, electronic & mechanical systems for research, commercial and exhibition purposes. Moderately versatile in the tools required for his work; he is devoted to studying and improving the technology around him. He is a well-trained and good communicator with a reasonable speaking reputation and  often asked to speak or present at tech and human resource development events or shows where he makes neat, interesting and effective presentations/instructions for his sessions or talks, and delivering eloquently and impressively.

During his undergraduate days he  won  First position (Students competition category) at the  28th International conference of the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers held at the National Engineering Centre Abuja, October 2015; Third position, National student fairs competition held at the Nigeria society of Engineers house in Port-Harcourt, March 2015); Third position, North-Central region of Committee of Deans of Engineering and Technology (CODET) Competition and represented his University at the finals. Innosuccess is a finalist of the Dutch Nigerian Business Challenge, a Fellow of the Platform Young Professionals Bootcamp and currently an Intern at XtreMechanics Academy Ilorin. His is eager and raring to change his world on the platform of Leadership and Technology
REFERENCES

1.Woodrow, B. (2010, October 26). Geneva Association Information Newsletter. Information Bulletin of the World Fire Statistics Centre, p. 3.

2.Majid, N. A. (2012). Autonomous Fire Protection Robot with Notification. Malaysia: Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.

Mustapha, N. B. (2013). Fire Fighting Robot. Malaysia: Universiti Teknikal Malaysia, Melaka.

3.Joga D. Setiawan, Mochamad Subchan, and Agus Budiyono ―Virtual Reality Simulation of Fire Fighting Robot. Dynamic and Motion.‖ ICIUS, October 24-26 2007.

4.Gerald Weed, Michael Schumacher, Shawn McVay, Jack Landes ―PPPPokey the Fire-Fighting Robot. A Logical Design Using Digital and Analog Circuitry‖, May 11 1999.

5.Chris Flesher, Devona Williams, Sean Benbrook, Somendra Sreedhar ―Fire Protection Robot. Final Report p. 1-78, 2004.

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