Rheinmetall Australia has developed an autonomous firefighting vehicle with 5G technology in light of the Australian Government supporting research into the application of technologies such as the 5G mobile standard and the Internet of Things. In a competitive programme, companies are expected to develop and demonstrate solutions that achieve benefits from the use of the technologies by 2023. The aim is to create the core for the faster rollout of 5G-based capabilities, according to the government’s communications site. Among the 19 companies selected in the first round is Rheinmetall Defence Australia, which applied with an autonomous/remote firefighting tank.
This project, funded with the equivalent of €930,000, will investigate the use of low-band 5G to support the remote control of these vehicles over long distances. The focus is on investigating the feasibility of this technology and developing a 5G range extension for drones. In the Advanced Firefighting Concept (AFC), Rheinmetall is developing autonomous vehicles that can fight bushfires in extreme environments. When Explaining the project, Gary Stewart, Managing Director of Rheinmetall Defence Australia, said, “The AFC is based on the Bundeswehr’s MARDER platform and aims to reduce the risk to frontline firefighters. It was developed in the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires.”
The conversion involved integrating a firefighting gun and tank with fire suppression agents into the IFV chassis. The engine was adapted for operation in hot environments with fires. Most importantly, a digital remote control system was installed to control all functions of the vehicle – forward/reverse, steering and use of the fire extinguishing cannon. Cameras transmit images of the vehicle’s location and enable the fire cannon to be deployed and can be used as a base for deploying forces in the surrounding area.
“This enables the fire truck to traverse hazardous terrain to support rescue, evacuation and firefighting operations over distances of more than 100 kilometers,” Stewart said.
To provide a stable communications link, Rheinmetall plans to use a UAV as a communications relay, with support from telecommunications company Telstra, to set up a 5G network for the remote firefighting vehicle. This process will involve transmitting information on operations and damage assessment without putting personnel at risk.