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This robotic hose balances on jets of water to put out hard-to-reach fires

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Sometimes the biggest challenge with extinguishing a fire can be getting to it in the first place. A blaze might be high up in a multistory building or hidden behind barriers. In those scenarios, you need a firefighting tool with a bit of reach and flexibility. Enter: the Dragon Fire Fighter, an unlikely-looking bit of kit that’s being developed by researchers from Japan’s Tohoku University and Hachinohe Institute of Technology.

As you can see in the video above, the technology is pretty simple: the hose works by balancing itself on powerful jets of water. The water pressure is strong enough to lift it off the ground, and the nozzles producing the jets can be tweaked to point in different directions and keep it steady. Human firefighters taking care of a base station can then maneuver the hose into position.

The Dragon Fire Fighter was brought to our attention by IEEE Spectrum and presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation last month. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done before it could be used in a real fire-fighting situation, and it’s not clear if it’ll ever really be practical. How high can water pressure lift a hose? And how steady will it be when it’s more than a couple of feet above the ground? There’s also the issue of damage caused by the jets (in the video you can see them tearing up the grass), and whether this level of water usage is wasteful.

It’s probably best if we stick with ladders for now.