STORIES

The Impact of Autonomous and Remote-Controlled Off-Road Equipment On Fire Suppression

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The advent of unmanned equipment in heavy industries has arrived, and so manufacturers of fire suppression systems need to address how this impacts the type of coverage these units receive. Whether a machine is used in mining, timber, recycling or some other niche, this new (and growing) paradigm requires a modified approach when it comes to fire protection.

Because the human factor is largely being removed from the firefighting equation as a result of this conversion process, the opportunities for an in cab operator to identify a fire and manually actuate a fire suppression system on the vehicle itself are all but gone. Fortunately, fire liability is not drastically increased by going the unmanned route, assuming those responsible for overseeing the vehicles have the ability to actuate the system from a distance.

At the moment not every fire suppression system is remote actuation ready, which is one of the main aspects of protection that will have to change. In keeping with a long-standing position at the technological forefront of its industry, AFEX Fire Suppression Systems incorporated the necessary advancements to its Control Unit over two years ago. As a result, remote actuation of an AFEX fire suppression system is as simple as pushing a button. Another benefit of the Control Unit’s advanced nature is its ability to tie-in with existing telematics, allowing for enhanced fire suppression system monitoring.

Of course this new reality also puts more of a premium on the use of automatic systems that self-actuate once sensors have determined a spike in temperature indicative of a fire. These types of systems have the advantage of being “on guard” at all times, monitoring those areas of the machine that are difficult to see, like the inside of an engine compartment. This fact would be equally helpful whether the scale of the operation is a fleet of autonomous haul trucks or a single, remote-controlled grinder.

Ultimately, the transition to unmanned vehicles will bring about a new look to the average fire suppression system. Remote actuation will need to become a default, allowing a remote machine supervisor to react to a fire immediately upon identification, while at the same time automatic systems will become necessary to account for the lack of an onboard operator. Identifying and understanding these basic truths has allowed AFEX Fire Suppression Systems to prepare for the job of protecting the next generation of heavy equipment.