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Get Smart: A Bomb 'Bot with Know-How

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 29 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2002 Pages: 136,138-140,142
Douglas Page
Date Published
July 2002
5 pages
This article discusses new technology of police bomb disposal and hazardous duty controlled robots.
Robots are beginning to use primitive “brains” to act on their own. Researchers have taken a remote-controlled wheeled police robot and given it an embryonic brain. This allows it to make many “how to” decisions on its own, without human control. It frees up the operators’ time so they can make critical “what to do next” decisions. The purpose of the upgrade is to improve police explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) operations, mainly through enhanced controllability of the manipulator arms. Robots don’t get tired, and are immune to smoke, toxic fumes, and emotional stress. New software, called SMART (Sandia Modular Architecture for Robotics and Teleoperation), is expected to make robots quicker, safer, easier to operate, and capable of new behaviors. The SMART software should minimize time on target for human bomb technicians. The functions include automated navigation to the target area, directing the robot to perform routine functions such as climbing, tool mounting, reaching, grasping, opening, and other necessary actions; and learning and performing repetitive functions with accuracy. Currently, police robots are controlled by remote button-boxes that move each joint on an arm, which makes it difficult to move more than two or three buttons at a time. The robot now has automatic capabilities as well as manual controls. This combination enables police to cut the time to complete some manipulation operations by 50 to 75 percent. These robots can be used to arm bombs and respond to hazardous material incidents. Most police organizations have to have multiple uses to justify the expense of a robot. Remotec’s robots cost from $60,000 to $135,000, depending on capability and the tool extras selected. The cost will go up with the new software. SMART technology has special appeal to smaller police agencies without full-time bomb squads. Although it may make EOD operators nervous to put a robot on automatic, the operations are designed to be sped up, slowed down, modified or stopped entirely at the operator’s discretion.