Under remote control
Utilizing state-of-the-art wireless remote controls, fire truck operators can carry out their duties with newfound freedom. International Fire Fighter speaks to fire truck manufacturer E-ONE and its remote control supplier, HBC-radiomatic, to chart the journey from concept to delivery.
U.S.-based E-ONE, a leader in the engineering, manufacture and delivery of fire trucks, is pioneering the use of remote controls, integrating the technology into its Advanced Aerial Control System (AACS). Available on all E-ONE aerial ladder and platform products, AACS features electric / hydraulic controls for smooth operation, including control from the turntable and, if requested, the aerial’s tip and pump operator’s panel.
The standout features of the system are remote-controlled ladder, master stream, lights and outriggers. HBC-radiomatic, a leader in remote control systems, has provided E-ONE with its spectrum B bellybox transmitter along with FSE 727 receiver, which are integrated into the AACS. E-ONE has worked closely with HBC to develop an application-specific system for each aerial product type. The wireless controls have been widely embraced by fire fighting, rescue and disaster management professionals that have operated an aerial with them.
Chip Goodson, engineering leader, aerials at E-ONE, says, “E-One was impressed with the capabilities and the wide array of custom options HBC can offer. Providing a product into the fire market demands that it be custom tailored to suite fire department needs. Further, HBC was able to provide a custom layout specifically for us at E-ONE.”
The partnership with HBC represents continued evolution of the E-ONE product range that started with the first modular all-aluminum fire truck being introduced in 1974. In 1981, the 110-foot ladder hit the market, two years later, the 95-foot platform and 135-foot aerial ladder were unveiled. By 1990, the new 75-foot aerial doubled as an aerial and a pumper. Most recently, E-ONE expanded its steel aerial line with the introduction of the HPS 100 Steel Platform.
Brett Schneider, regional sales manager at HBC-radiomatic Inc., explains that the technology principally enhances firefighting operations and increases firefighter safety as personnel are no longer tethered to the truck and can position themselves in the best location to spot the ladder when positioning it next to a window or building’s edge. They can also more easily combine multiple duties, allowing rural fire departments with limited manpower to maximize the capabilities of their crews.
Schneider says, “Our spectrum line of bellybox transmitters allow for the perfect design customization for the operation of heavy equipment and machinery. In this case, the spectrum B transmitter was well-suited to cover the functions and safety features required for E-ONE.”
Goodson adds, “E-ONE is very impressed with how robust the HBC bellybox is. It should serve the fire industry very well; we are receiving positive feedback at each demonstration. The joysticks, switches and buttons all operate very smoothly and the integrated lighting in the roll-over bar is a nice detail.”
Schneider points to key features, including HBC’s LED rollover-bar for easy viewing of the remote during night operations and radiomatic shock-off that deactivates the remote in the event that it experiences an impact. The FSE 727 receiver, meanwhile, is the ideal choice due to the flexibility that it offers, allowing for integration either through E-ONE’s AACS via CANbus interface or by direct control of the hydraulics.
“About two years ago,” Schneider recalls, “E-ONE and HBC started working together to develop the best control packages for critical use by fire fighters.”
However, the first HBC buttons to be pressed by firefighters was a more significant moment in a timeline that started when it opened dialog with E-ONE three-and-a-half years ago. Schneider remembers that initial discussions were more about the capabilities of equipment and demonstrating to the fire truck specialist that it was the right partner with which to share this pioneering journey.
It’s been a learning curve for both companies, but Schneider says it was apparent early in the relationship that HBC was “well-matched” to the firefighting industry.
He says, “The emphasis on safety, reliability and flexibility are of the utmost importance and this is where HBC-radiomatic is well recognized as a global leader.”
With that established, HBC designed a custom system, designed to meet the exacting needs of E-One, thoroughly tested in accordance with HBC’s quality standards. While the fire sector was not its largest market, HBC was well versed in meeting the demands of customers who apply its technologies in hazardous environments.
“While each industry has its own unique challenges,” Schneider says, “the fire industry has many similarities to others. As this is HBC’s 70th year, we were able to pull from our vast experience in markets such as mining and drilling, construction machinery and mobile hydraulics.”
He continues, “While the situation and circumstances can vary quite a bit with each sector, two things that are always necessary are operator safety and operational efficiency. Having the ability to easily move between different vantage points without the need to be tethered to the machine, provides the operator with a great deal of added freedom.”
HBC’s transmitters and receivers operate at a safe distance away from the fire, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to withstand harsh environments; being mounted on a fire truck, they need to endure the daily rigors during deployment of such equipment. An IP65-rated housing ensures no moisture from the environment can get in and destroy the internal electronics, for example.
Inevitably, there are questions as to what HBC and E-ONE are planning next. Schneider reveals that there has been some discussion about utilizing its radiomatic photon option, which allows for live video feedback to the TFT display on the remote.
“We feel that this technology can be very beneficial to this particular market, where time and visibility are of critical importance,” he says. “Mounted to the aerial, the camera feed would allow operators to get a better view of the situation—from a safer distance.”
Schneider also says that there is scope to increase the volume of remote-controlled parts and tools on fire trucks. As he puts it, “[There are] more possibilities to control different models with different options. Relatively speaking, remote-controlling firefighting equipment is still in its infancy. That being said, more and more municipalities are being introduced to the latest technology with a focus on personnel safety.”
Schneider anticipates that HBC will remain at the forefront of this increased uptake. “We have a tremendous amount of experience in the fire industry worldwide. As a global radio control manufacturer with industry-unique technologies, HBC is well positioned as a leader in this market,” he says.
Forays are also expected into other industry sectors. Schneider says, “By gaining exposure to different markets, HBC is able to expand its capabilities and knowledge / experience base. This enables us to expand in to new and emerging sectors. The markets in which we operate are essentially unlimited. The growing adoption of radio controls in the fire industry further demonstrates the value of industrial radio controls for the safe and efficient operation of a broad range of equipment.”
Goodson concludes, “Giving firefighters more flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing requirements on a fire ground, we hope this will help them perform their demanding jobs a little more easily.”
For more information, go to hbc-radiomatic.com