Risk Management Insight Magazine Article: UNIFIRE’s FlameRanger—The World’s Most Advanced Autonomous Robotic Fire Suppression System
This article was published March 3, 2023 in Risk Management Insight Magazine, Africa’s Leading Risk Management Journal:
FlameRanger, manufactured by globally-renowned Unifire AB of Sweden, is likely the world’s most advanced autonomous robotic fire suppression system (also known as an “automatic fire monitor” or “automatic water cannon”).
FlameRanger systems combine cutting-edge stainless steel robotic nozzles (aka monitors) with the company’s in-house designed electronic hardware and software and with a host of third-party, state-of-the-art flame detection technologies.
FlameRanger systems are able to rapidly detect a fire and autonomously open the valve, aim the robotic nozzle and suppress the fire—typically in under 15 seconds from a fire’s ignition. Shortly after the fire is no longer detected, the system closes the valve, the nozzle moves to it’s park position, and the system continues in standby mode, ready to react should a new fire break out again. The system can detect and track 4 fires and suppresses them in the order in which they are detected.
Moreover, although the system operates autonomously around the clock, a human operator can take remote control of any robotic nozzle at any time from a joystick, radio remote control, or from Unifire’s ONE app for iOS and Android devices. Unifire also offers the ability to easily control its robotic nozzles from a computer located anywhere in the world (see: https://youtu.be/K61VpWRrI7w).
The FlameRanger is designed to be very flexible and able to work with a wide variety of fire detection technologies and detection manufacturers, in order to suite the risk and customer’s specific needs. Detection technologies include 3IR flame detectors, thermal imaging cameras, video analytics and hybrid fire detectors, which combine video analytics with IR or thermal imaging and others. The system can also take in digital signals from supplemental detectors or alarms of any kind. Various detection technologies can even be combined.
Various fire detection technologies each offer advantages and disadvantages, and Unifire consults its clients to ensure the best detection technology is selected for their needs and specific fire risks.
According to Unifire’s Director of International Sales & Marketing, Roger Barrett James, “The two most popular detection technologies we sell with our FlameRanger system are systems with either IR3 flame detectors or with thermal imaging cameras. Flame detectors offer extremely quick fire detection and are extremely unlikely to produce false alarms. For some customers and applications, we supply thermal imaging cameras that can trigger the system when a certain temperature is reached and/or when there is a rapid heat build-up over a certain amount of time—both parameters are easily programmed and adjustable to the customer’s needs.”
Unifire’s FlameRanger systems that use flame detectors combine two flame detectors which each provide the system with the fire’s two-dimensional coordinates. The advanced electronics are then able to triangulate and track in real time the exact three-dimensional size and location of the fire and dynamically and intelligently aim the water cannon to suppress the fire in seconds. These systems are therefore able to adjust to a spreading fire and adjust to the fire’s behaviour.
FlameRanger systems with thermal imaging cameras are also able to determine the fire’s location and deploy a pre-recorded spray pattern to suppress the fire. Thermal imaging cameras provide the advantage of being able to detect heat before there is a fire, although can produce “false alarms” when a benign hot object, such as a hot engine or exhaust from a forklift or vehicle, is detected. Algorithms in the software help reduce such false alarms.
Unifire and various testing labs have conducted extensive testing of the FlameRanger system, including full-scale fire tests proving the system’s effectiveness. According to Unifire, the company has sold over 130 systems in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia, and sales are growing rapidly.