AI fire helmet could help save lives

[29/09/2022] Pioneering technology developed by Dr Chris Xiaoxuan Lu from the School of Informatics could help firefighters more quickly map their surroundings, navigate hazardous environments and get people to safety.

A portrait photograph of young Asian man, Dr Chris Xiaoxuan Lu
Dr Chris Xiaoxuan Lu

Live feeds from thermal imaging cameras, radar and other sensors mounted on standard-issue fire helmets are combined with artificial intelligence to give firefighters real-time information from fire scenes.

It is hoped the technology could help firefighters and scene commanders more safely navigate dangerous or low-visibility conditions and reduce the time it takes to rescue victims.

The technology is being developed by researchers in the School of Informatics with support from the National Robotarium, a world-leading centre for robotics and artificial intelligence.

Fire sensors

Field trials of the new technology have been conducted with members of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at their £10.5 million training facility in Newbridge, Edinburgh.

The entire sensor rig weighs less than one kilogram and uses affordable, off-the-shelf parts that are easy to fit to standard-issue fire helmets.

The team aims to develop the technology further to give the helmet the ability to create 3D maps and to provide wearers with a built-in display screen.

This new technology has the potential to support on-the-ground firefighters and scene commanders to make crucial in-the-moment decisions that can enhance search rescue efficiency, ensure safer collaboration between teammates and, most importantly, improve outcomes for potential victims of fire scenes.

Dr Chris Xiaoxuan Lu
School of Informatics

Dr Lu's research project has support from the National Robotarium, which opened it's new £22.4 million facility this week.

A group photo showing a line of people: firefighter in their gear and young researchers
Scottish Fire and Rescue team and Dr Lu's students. Photo by Chris Watt

The National Robotarium

The National Robotarium is a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. It brings together researchers and businesses applying AI and robotics research to areas including hazardous environments, offshore energy, manufacturing, healthcare, assisted living and agritech.

The new facility – part of the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative – is supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government. The DDI initiative forms part of the wider £1.3bn Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal, which aims to establish Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe.

Related links

Chris Xiaoxuan Lu's personal page

The National Robotarium

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service