By Tom Porter
Twin brothers from Maine have devised an unmanned vehicle that’s being hailed as the world’s first fire-fighting robot. Identical twins Michael and Geoffrey Howe, of Howe Howe Technologies in Waterboro, have a background as defense contractors, building robotic bomb-sniffing and surveillance vehicles for the military. Some of you may have seen them on the Discovery Channel, where they had their own show and were known as as the “Black Ops Brothers.” They say the new fire-fighting system, known as Thermite, employs technology developed for the military, which is now intended both to fight fires more efficiently and save the lives of firefighters.
The Thermite has been described a rugged powerhouse of a vehicle: With its diesel-powered engine it moves on tracks and stands about chest high, weighing some 1,400 pounds. At 34 inches wide, Michael says it’s small enough to get into a burning room, yet powerful and well-equipped enough to extinguish fires when it gets there.
Geoff and I do this for the Army right now, and our business is built around making robots for the Army,” Michael Howe says. “But we had a discussion after Fukushima and some of the wild fires, why can’t we roll the same technology into some domestic situations and use it for firefighting and hazmat and emergency response, and that’s really where the Thermite was born.”
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Photograph by Tom Porter