Watch Dog Security founder Brad Gladstone is no stranger to the devastation industrial fires can cause. His Detroit-based company installs commercial security camera systems in hazardous locations, such as scrapyards, shredder facilities and oil wells, where highly flammable materials can catch fire at any moment.
“You've got to understand, they're shredding vehicles that have gas and oil in them,” Gladstone says. “This process involves tremendous friction, so imagine a little piece of heated metal going into the fluff that was a car’s carpet, ceiling, upholstery, etc. That residue, as a rule, is soaked in oil, gas and anti-freeze, which can cause a fire to fester for 60 hours.”
Gladstone says that while standard closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras with video analytics can identify fires once they become visible, he wanted to design a device that would both detect and extinguish small fires on the spot.
In March 2015, Watchdog Security finished construction on a mobile fire suppression unit called the Fire Rover. The device utilizes a thermal imaging camera to detect heat and a self-contained vessel that disperses firefighting foam. But what makes the Fire Rover unique is that it can be remotely controlled over the Internet.
“All of these customers who’ve been asking us for so long to help them with this fire problem, we can now do it with certainty,” says Gladstone. “We can look them in the eye and tell them a fire will not happen undetected. This Fire Rover is going to change the market.”
Gladstone says what made the Fire Rover possible was the release of new thermal imaging camera from Wilsonville, Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc., the A310f. Unlike CCTV cameras, the camera detects heat energy that is invisible to the naked eye. With a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, the camera can easily identify the rise in temperature of a smoldering fire with an accuracy of plus or minus two degrees Fahrenheit.
“It was the development and set-up of the A310f that made this possible,” says Gladstone. “When we were testing, there was somebody 250 yards away with a cigarette, and the FLIR camera was picking that up, letting us know that there was heat over normal temperatures. The accuracy of this camera, of course, is truly amazing.”
Paul Czerepuszko, the director of automation business development at FLIR, says many companies rely on flame detectors to provide fire security because they cost less. However, once a fire gets started, that type of detection might be too late.
“The nice thing about the FLIR A310f cameras is that they are calibrated temperature measurement devices,” he says. “That means we can set thresholds on different materials and assets so we can track heat before it goes to ignition.”
FLIR designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and distributes thermal imaging systems, visible-light imaging systems, locator systems, measurement and diagnostic systems, and advanced threat detection systems.
With the detection issue solved, Gladstone and Watch Dog Security Operations Manager Jeremy Dusing consulted with a local engineer to design the foam dispersion system. They needed something both rugged and portable, and managed to fit a collection of tanks filled with nitrogen gas, water and liquid foam agent into a standard metal shipping container. Then they raised a 28-foot pipe on the outside and put a nozzle and HD camera on top.
“It looks like a giant water cannon,” says Dusing.
The way that “water cannon” system works is the moment the camera senses a temperature above a designated level, it triggers an alarm to Watchdog Security’s national monitoring station, based in Pennsylvania. An operator logs into that given IP address to view the video feed from the cameras, as well as account information and contact numbers for local authorities.
If needed, the operator can activate the Fire Rover with the press of a button, release the spray with a second press, and aim the nozzle with a joystick, using the HD video feed as guidance. The Fire Rover contains a fire-fighting liquid concentrate called FireAde 2000. The nozzle can spray the foam up to a distance of 150 feet for approximately 20 minutes.
“We program the system to look for fires of a certain nature,” Dusing says. “So, if we're guarding a scrap pile, then we'll add programming to improve its accuracy.”
While the Fire Rover is not intended to replace professional firefighters, Gladstone says he believes it will offer the same peace of mind sprinkler systems do inside office buildings and warehouses. He expects the Fire Rover will make a big difference not only in the waste and recycling industry, but in logistics operations like distribution centers, truck yards and port facilities.