Bounding up numerous flights of stairs when the elevator is out is punishing enough for our legs and lungs, but imagine having to do so while carrying heavy equipment needed to extinguish a blazing high-rise fire. Such a scenario has prompted specialist vehicle manufacturer Trigen Automotive to work with Singapore's Civil Defence Force to develop Auberon, a purely mechanical exoskeleton designed to take the strain out of carrying emergency equipment up to tower-top fires.

Trigen says that the breathing apparatus, hose lines, nozzles, power tools and more which often make up a firefighter's emergency toolkit can all add up to 40 kg (90 lb) of back-punishing weight, particularly when having to climb flights of stairs in a burning tower. Such equipment becomes much less of a burden when mounted to the Auberon Pneumatic Exoskeleton's specially-designed frame.

The electronics-free solution sees two 6.8 liter compressed air tanks powering the exoskeleton, which is reported enough to get a firefighter up and down 12 stories of stairs three times and still have a little to spare. Importantly, the design keeps a firefighter's hands free to tackle the task of putting out a fire, while reducing the heavy burden on the shoulders and back by passing the weight through the exoskeleton and on to the ground via the footplate.

Pneumatic pistons on the legs help the first responder get into an easy stride, making an otherwise daunting stair climb much less of a physical challenge. And should the situation call for the firefighter to escape from the exoskeleton, a quick release mechanism has been included.

"Auberon demonstrates Trigen Automotive's recognition of the essential and demanding work carried out by firefighters worldwide," said the company's Lim Joo Siang. "We have worked very closely with emergency services to understand their challenges on the ground and engineered a reliable solution that mitigates the harsh conditions faced by firefighters in high-rise firefighting."

The company is taking order for Auberon now.

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