Firefighters of the Future: The ‘Flying Dragon’ Robot

How about a dragon flying around, but get this – not spitting out fire, but actually putting out flames with water! Japanese researchers are up with concretizing this cool idea.

Thinking of firefighting dragon as blasting water on out-of-control fires, these scientists are working on a dragon buddy, which someday would join firefighting teams worldwide. It’s like a mix of myth and modern-day firefighting.

Dragon Firefighter’s Blueprint Unleashed

Interestingly, the game-changing blueprint for the Dragon Firefighter, a novel firefighter robot, just hit the scene in Frontiers in Robotics and AI.

Thanks to Open Science, all the brainy robot creators out there can snag the plans and whip up their very own Dragon Firefighters. It’s like a global invitation to join the firefighting tech revolution for the greater good.

Meet the Firefighting Marvel

Dr. Yuichi Ambe, an assistant professor at Osaka University introduced the four-meter-long flying firehose robot. The remote-controlled machine is all set to dive into buildings, boldly approaching fire sources up close to handle blazes with maximum safety and efficiency. It’s like having a firefighting superhero on wings!

A Journey from 2016 Kickoff to Collaborating with Japanese Firefighters

Back in 2016, Professor Satoshi Tadokoro’s crew at Tohoku University kicked off the flying robot project. Fast forward, and 11 dedicated researchers and students have been in the mix, pushing the boundaries for its evolution.

The group also teamed up with Japanese firefighters, getting the lowdown on their needs before and during the whole development shindig.

A Shape-Shifting Marvel with Eight Water Jets

The Dragon Firefighter’s firehose is no ordinary hose – it’s propelled upwards, cruising two meters above the ground. After all, eight mighty water jets shoot from its center and head.

This is not enough; the hose is having a power of shape-shifting. It can twist and turn, aiming straight at the flames, all thanks to a slick control unit on a wheeled cart tagging along. And the cart itself is hooked up to a fire truck loaded with a whopping 14,000 liters of water.

If we talk about the nozzles, well, they shoot water at an impressive rate of 6.6 liters per second, packing a punch with a pressure of up to one megapascal.

The hose isn’t just about brute force. At its tip, there’s two important tools – a conventional camera and a thermal imaging camera. What do they do? They team up to pinpoint the exact location of the fire. It’s like having a dynamic duo at the front line of firefighting game!

A Spectacular Debut at WRS2020 and Lessons Learned

The Dragon Firefighter had its fiery debut at the World Robot Summit 2020 (WRS2020) opening ceremony in Fukushima, held in September 2021. At this grand event, it showcased its prowess by successfully extinguishing the ceremonial flame – a spectacle of fireballs ignited by another robot, standing four meters away. You can catch the action from 49 minutes to 51 minutes into the ceremony.

Dr. Yu Yamauchi, an assistant professor at Akita Prefectural University added that post the WRS2020 demo, the team continued to level up the machine. For instance, mechanism that was intended to stabilize the robot’s body and minimize oscillations during flight, didn’t quite make the cut. Its sluggishness was a deal-breaker—it took too much time to gear up for flight.

So, it’s a quick pivot back to the drawing board to brainstorm a faster and snappier solution.

And that’s not all, the team also discovered that the scorching heat from fires threw a curveball, causing some not-so-friendly plastic deformation. The researchers re-considered materials or perhaps some heat-resistant upgrades to keep things in top-notch shape.


Although the concept of “flying dragon” looks awesome, however, researchers envision a 10-year countdown before we see our firefighting robot hitting the streets for real action.

Just imagine, a future where the flying dragon robot is teamed up with all sorts of cool tech like drones, AI, and super-smart sensors. It’ll be like a tech squad working together for top-notch firefighting action.

One thing is sure, this dragon’s on a path of continuous growth and change, gearing up to become a real tech giant in the fight against fires and emergencies.

More information: Development of a remotely controllable 4 m long aerial-hose-type firefighting robot, Frontiers in Robotics and AI (2023). DOI: 10.3389/frobt.2023.1273676

Explore further