January 18, 2013      

Waterboro, ME, population a little over 7,000, squat in a nook of land the Abenaki Indians called Massabesic, meaning “place of much water,” resides Howe & Howe Technologies, makers of extreme robots: tough machines for really tough jobs.

Just the names of the vehicles sound tough: Bulldog, Ripsaw, Extreme Vehicle and Thermite. Customers run the tough-job gamut from emergency response to the U.S. military to Hollywood?s newest Mad Max remake ?Fury Road?.

The six-foot-long robotic Thermite the company’s literature bills as ?a durable, compact, and self-contained fire-fighting and emergency response robot capable of handling situations and blazes?from hazardous materials, chemical fires, train derailments or fuel farms.” Price: $98,500. Dirt cheap when putting it to work in a place like the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

GIZMAG: Howe & Howe Technologies has unveiled the firefighter of tomorrow called the Thermite RS1-T2. Based on technology developed for the U.S. Army, this stocky little modular robot on tank treads is a small, powerful fire fighting machine that provides crews with a means for remote reconnaissance and safely fighting fires in hazardous areas.

The Thermite is designed to be used in areas of extreme hazard, such as aircraft fires, refineries, chemical plants or nuclear reactors. In fact, brothers Mike and Geoff Howe, who founded Howe & Howe, used the Fukushima nuclear disaster as an example of the kind of location where the Thermite is intended to be used.

Not only is it preferable to risk a robot instead of a person, the Thermite is also immune to smoke, fumes and fatigue ? the last of which is a major cause of death in firefighters by heart attack (53 percent).

bulldog carrier

The Thermite is remote controlled and can be operated from up to a quarter of a mile (400 m) away. It?s not large, measuring only 74 inches (187.96 cm) long, 35 inches (88.9 cm) wide and 55 inches (139.7 cm) high, and weighs in at 1,640 pounds (743.89 kg). However, it?s small size is a deliberate design feature.

The Howe brothers wanted the Thermite to be able to go through doorways and navigate interior spaces. Also, being small means the Thermite is easy to transport in city traffic ? especially when using the company?s Bulldog fire fighting truck, which is designed to carry a pair of Thermites or similar sized robots.

It?s also powerful for its size. Its 25 bhp (18.64 kW) diesel engine can haul up to 1,270 pounds (576 kg) and its steel and aircraft-grade aluminum construction help it to traverse the most rugged of terrain and provide reconnaissance.

Its main firefighting tool is a multi-directional nozzle that is backed by a pump that can deliver 600 gallons per minute (2271.25 l/min).

The Thermite is a scaled down, repurposed design inspired by Howe & Howe Technologies’ Ripsaw unmanned military vehicle that started as a family project in the year 2000 and from which a prototype of the vehicle was ordered by the U.S. Army in 2001.

The Ripsaw is a developmental unmanned light tank designed and built by Howe & Howe Technologies for evaluation by the United States Army. It is able to accelerate to 60 mph in about 4 seconds.

The Howe brothers started the Ripsaw as a small family project in 2000. They introduced it at a Dallas vehicle show in 2001, where it caught the interest of the U.S. Army. Later that year the U.S. Military ordered a prototype MS-1 to be made and shipped to Iraq.