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Super firemen: These fire fighting exoskeleton suits give superhuman abilities

The trouble with fighting fires in traditional one-size-fits-all firefighting suits is that they’re heavy and bulky, weighing firefighters down when they’re climbing stairs or rescuing people. One industrial designer, Jiazhen ‘Ken’ Chen has made a dramatic improvement on tradition and introduced his Advanced Firefighting Apparatus powered exoskeleton suit to give firefighters a personalised helping hand while on the job.

The AFA exoskeleton suit aims to increase the performance of firefighters while walking, running and carrying during work in high-rise buildings. Because the suit can load up to 91kg and strapped to the firefighter’s clothing, it transfers the load directly to the ground so firefighters are not weighed down and in danger while attending to a fire.

Each exoskeleton suit will be customised for the firefighter and will be able to operate for up to two hours at a time. And each suit will also be equipped with an impulse water gun system and a movable joystick to manoeuvre while working.

Chen told Discovery News he was inspired to design the system after reading about the 2010 Shanghai fire that killed 58 people in a high-rise apartment.

“In my research, I found that high-rise buildings can hold thousands of people well above the reach of fire department aerial devices, and once the fire is above the operational reach of ladders or elevating platforms, the chance of rescuing victims is nearly zero.

“This means the only viable way of rescue for firefighters is the stairs. I wanted to utilise an existing or near-future technology to increase firefighters’ walking and carrying abilities.”

“According to my research, there are no other firefighting exoskeleton concepts in development — I got the inspiration from military exoskeletons designed by the U.S. Army,” Chen said.

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