The standard procedure for rescue operations in heavily smoke-filled buildings currently involves crew members entering the danger zone in pairs - among other things to help guide one another through usually unfamiliar surroundings. But as they are often forced to rely solely on their sense of touch, the firefighters can easily lose contact without realizing. In extreme cases, this can potentially have fatal consequences, particularly because those very same conditions often make it incredibly difficult to find their partner again. Having identified this pitfall, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at Zwickau University of Applied Sciences set about developing an innovative firefighting mask, unveiling it at HANNOVER MESSE 2019.

"The innovation centers on a pair of data glasses integrated into the firefighter's mask," says Professor Rigo Herold from WHZ, adding: "This enables them to move around in poorly lit or smoke-filled buildings. It also projects important information into their field of vision, such as the layout, evacuation plan, instructions from the unit commander, and their own vital signs." As part of this autonomous "navigation and communication solution", three lightweight ultra-wideband (UWB) radio nodes are embedded into the firefighters' protective clothing. By analyzing calculations based on a novel combination of distance and angle of arrival, these innovative nodes can determine the positions of the firefighters in relation to each other. As you'd expect, the prevailing conditions in rescue operations place very stringent technological requirements in terms of heat resistance and mechanical stability. What's more, the entire optical equipment, electronics and power supply need to fit inside the mask without impairing the wearer's field of vision. The expertise gained during research projects of a similar nature - aimed at users such as steel workers - stood the researchers at WHZ in excellent stead to meet all these requirements.

Zwickau University of Applied Sciences (08056 Zwickau, Germany)