Faster and lighter bomb-disposal robot set for trials

Engineers are finalising a prototype bomb-disposal robot that they claim will be lighter and more cost-effective than current models.

At around 72cm in length and 35cm wide, the robot should weigh in at less than 50kg and achieve speeds of up to eight miles per hour, its makers say.

‘Particularly if the unit is disassembled — we can take the turret and batteries off it — it is much more portable than the competing units. That means we can get it into the theatre faster, and also that we can get it to places you can’t easily get a large vehicle to,’ said Dr Steve Woodhead of Greenwich University, who is working on the project alongside industrial partner NIC Instruments.

The robot has cameras on board, which relay images back to the operator via a hand-held control, and employs a versatile gripper that can carry and manipulate delicate items. It also includes nuclear, biological and chemical weapons sensors.

Key customers for the finished product are expected to include the defence and security forces of several EU countries.

‘Because of its relative portability, you can put it in the boot of a car and drive it around, so it does lend itself to civilian applications rather more than some of the larger competing units that require a dedicated vehicle to drive them around in,’ Woodhead said.

Particular scenarios that the robot is designed for include examining suspect items such as IEDs, approaching suspect vehicles and opening the doors to investigate, as well as remote searching of buildings and aircraft.

‘One of the things we’re looking at is whether we can make the arm long enough to be able to reach overhead lockers on civilian aircraft,’ Woodhead said.

The final prototype should be finished within the next two months, after which it will enter field trials and a demonstration for an interested civilian EU client.