First line of defense: AMATOYA fire reconnaissance vehicle concept
Wildfire is one of the few natural disasters that we are at all equipped to combat, but when it takes a ferocious hold we are often able to do little more than limit the spread. Responding to a need for better equipment at the front line, AMATOYA is a concept fire reconnaissance buggy designed to improve vehicle and crew safety while maintaining off road capabilities and delivering better fire suppression technology in the critical initial response phase.
Currently initial site reconnaissance on arrival at a fire is undertaken by light tankers or Quick Attack Vehicles (QAVs) - these typically are modified single cabin commercial utility vehicles, such as the Toyota Landcruiser. While these are adequately equipped for off-road conditions and have agile maneuverability vital to fire ground conditions, they are severely limited in their fire-fighting capacity having only 500 liters of water on board. The position in which this water is stored also makes the vehicle unstable and prone to rolling. Typically these vehicles need five or six crew members to operate effectively and survival in the face of a fire is clearly a key issue. Conventional tankers are built body-on-frame from a standard cab chassis truck base and cannot offer the safety of an integrated design. Advances in insulative materials and suppression technologies have not yet been reflected in existing fire appliance design. There is a distinct lack of burnover protection, and other protective measures often render the vehicle incapacitated while in use. Sobering facts indeed.
The way forward?
AMATOYA is an idealistic concept, yet it does address a number of issues in the field of fire appliance design that seem to beg attention. Tthe purpose-built monocoque design means the the shell takes most of the stresses and gull wing doors provide the most effective access to its unconventional form. Bodywork is protected by military-grade sacrificial thermo-ceramic intumescent paints (swelling, heat-resistant paint to you and me), and windows and bodywork are further insulated by advanced aerogel laminated insulation. An auxiliary water store supplies an intelligent temperature-controlled spray-down system which allows the vehicle to stay fully operational and mobile while in use. It maintains current 4WD capability with generous approach, departure and over-ramp angles, suspension travel, ground clearance and minimized turn circle, and additionally employs central tire inflation (CTI) and run flat tire (RFT) technology coupled with beadlock tires that allow an extensive band of dynamic pressure control to aid in traversing complex terrain. It has a mechanically injected large displacement diesel engine designed with fire ground conditions in mind.
On the battle field
The AMATOYA requires only two crew members to be operated effectively which allows for greater distribution of resources in an emergency. In a style more befitting military design the driver is positioned high, central and forward to maximize down vision; this is aided by the lack of a traditional b-pillar which provides uninterrupted views for the ROSCO operator behind the driver. ROSCO, or Remotely Operated Suppression Cannon Outfit utilizes IFEX3000 impulse technology to efficiently (and ecologically) combat fire, and reduce the impact to crew members of the stresses of extended high intensity work. It is coupled with a 1800lt + 400lt auxiliary water supply which has been positioned low and centrally to increase vehicle stability.
A thermal imaging camera along with directional spot lights will assist in ‘hotspot’ location to determine the most effective direction of attack.
Student designer Liam Ferguson of Monash University was personally affected by the Victorian bush fires in Australia last year that killed 170 people and left thousands homeless, and has been shortlisted for an Australian Design Award for his AMATOYA vehicle.
In Liam's own words this is a "blue sky concept" and represents an idealistic improvement in almost every current design inadequacy - which seems like a great place for a designer to start.