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Robots in the Line of Fire

Bomb disposal robots are equipped to go into areas too unsafe for humans. 


The Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros Mark 5-A1 robot is designed for bomb disposal and is used by many police departments to get rid of explosives without risking lives. But on July 7, 2016, when a heavily armed sniper shot and killed five police officers and injured several others in Dallas, the robot was used to deliver an explosive, rather than take it away.

According to a report by CNN, Dallas Police Chief David Brown asked his bomb squad to come up with a plan to end the two-hour standoff. They decided to improvise the robot with a device to detonate a few feet from where the gunman was hiding on the second floor in El Centro Community College.

The Remotec robot, which costs about $150,000, was carrying a one-pound payload ready to detonate and basically “snuck up” on the sniper. Details of the robots movements prior to the explosion are kept confidential, but according to the Northrop Grumman website, the Mark 5-A1 is a highly versatile all-terrain system capable of riding over ditches or even climbing stairs. It includes a color surveillance camera with light, zoom, pan and tilt, multiple-mission tool/sensor mounts with plug-and-play capabilities, an arm with seven degrees of freedom and a gripper with continuous rotation. Data links are available for remote operator control, including fiber optic cable and wireless radio.

Other options for the robot include: real-time x-ray machines, drills and saws, cable cutter, window-breaker, gas dispenser mount and a modified 12-gauge shotgun.

The robot completed its mission that horrible day. It is unclear the extent of the damage to the robot after the explosion, but it ultimately saved lives by not putting more police in the line of fire.

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