The first 200 BomBots will be shipped next week to Iraq before being joined by 2,300 other ones over the next 10 months. According to the Charleston Gazette, their mission will be to save lives of soldiers by destroying improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which already can be blamed for about 800 deaths. These 20-inch-by-20-inch robotic vehicles can carry 10 pounds of C4 explosive and travel 35 miles per hour. As they can be remotely controlled by soldiers from 1,600 feet away, they can be safely used to detonate IEDs. And each Bombot will cost only $5,000 and replace previous robots costing more than $100,000.
Here are some details given by the Charleston Gazette.
At just 20 by 20 inches, the robots feature a camera that tilts 90 degrees and pans 360 degrees, said Brad DeRoos, vice president of Research and Development at the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation (WVHTC). It carries 10 pounds of explosives and can travel 35 miles per hour, he said.
Also, the robots cost 20 to 30 times less than the machines currently used, which cost more than $100,000, he said. "It’s a great solution," he said. "It’s going to save lives, no doubt about it."
Below is a picture of a BomBot during the testing phase (Credit: WVHTC).
Made in groups of six to nine, the robots begin with a $500 remote-controlled race car body, and the wheels, radios and transmission are modified, said Bill Pentz, general manager of Innovative Response Technologies (IRT), [a for-profit subsidiary of WVHTC.] Each robot takes about five hours to make and travels through seven stations, he said. The four assembly line workers turn out 15 robots a day, he said.
In Robots built in W.Va. going to Iraq to detonate bombs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides additional details about the BomBots.
The BomBot's lower price [about $5,000] makes it more expendable and, at 15 pounds, it can be carried more easily than larger, heavier disposal devices that must be hauled on a trailer or in a Humvee. "Insurgents are taking out [bomb-disposal] devices to slow future responses," Mr. DeRoos said. "These are rapidly replaceable and not as expensive to the military."
But the BomBot's chief benefit, officials said, is the protection it provides for soldiers who can use it to detonate IEDs from up to 1,640 feet away. That is particularly satisfying to James L. Estep, foundation president and chief executive officer, whose 21-year-old son, Adam, is serving in Iraq and recently lost a friend in an IED blast.
What is also amazing is the fabrication process of these BomBots.
BomBots are not built from scratch but are modifications of commercially available remote-controlled monster trucks that are intended for adults to race and sell for $350 to $500.
[The four workers] replace the original wheels with larger, tougher versions and swap out the radio for a tamper- and jam-resistant model that responds only to its operator's hand-held controller. They upgrade the truck's transmission and clutch and modify its springs. Then they add an antenna, a dump-truck bed, a flashlight-sized camera that provides a 360-degree view and conduct more tests.
As IEDs already killed 800 soldiers in 3 years, these four West Virginia workers might save more than 200 lives per year. I hope they will be rewarded.
Finally, if you want more information about how the BomBots were developed, you can read Engineers Deliver Robot to Neutralize Remote Explosives (by Timothy R. Anderl, Tyndall Air Force Base, via Space Daily, July 21, 2005) and WVHTC Foundation Captures Robotics Contract From U.S. Navy (WVHTC news release, January 17, 2006).
Sources: Sarah K. Winn, The Charleston Gazette, April 21, 2006; Cindi Lash, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 21, 2006; and various web sites
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