The History and the Future of Bomb Disposal Robots

Modern robots have become more sophisticated, thanks to continuous innovation and discovery. At one point in time, members of the military and law enforcers realized the real danger that comes with bomb disposal. That paved the way for the creation of the first bomb disposal robot.
So, how has this machine changed over the years and how will it affect our future?

bomb disposal robots

What Is a Bomb Squad Robot

As the name suggests, a bomb disposal robot is a machine that is specially designed to defuse and dispose bombs. However, scientists noted that it is not a robot per se, but more of a drone or an unmanned vehicle. It allows bomb experts to control the machine from afar.
Should there be mishaps during the process, there will be no casualties reported, but only the bomb squad robot. This machine has truly become a game changer in ensuring everyone’s safety while defusing and disposing a bomb.

Bomb Disposal Robot History

The first bomb disposal machine, also known as the Wheelbarrow Mark 1, was invented in the UK by Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Miller. While it was effective for bomb desposal, it was difficult to maneuver. Considering the urgency of the situation, Miller realized they needed to improve its handling and controls.

With the help of the Engineering Establishment of Chertsey and Major Robert Patterson’s waterjet, they enabled the machine to disable bombs rather than detonating it or towing it away. This legacy has been carried down from one expert to another to create the best bomb disposal robot.

Bomb Disposal Robot Design

Basically, bomb disposal machines are designed for specialized operations in places with narrow areas and some types of transportation where a bomb can be planted, such as an aircraft, train, car, ship, or a bus. These robots are designed to detect commands as far away from the operator as possible.

Challenges and common solutions

In the past, the battery of these machines weighed 80 kilograms, inhibiting them from flinging into high and narrow spaces. Also, the initial joints were bulky enough to hamper their ability to reach the smallest of bombs inside the narrowest of spaces. However, engineers were able to reduce their weight and created smaller and more flexible robots.

Good examples of components that made these robots more functional are Elmo’s Tweeter and Whistle controllers. With their smaller sizes and lighter weights, engineers are now able to create smaller arms for the machine. There is also the DC Whistle servo drive for more compact motors. These devices possess onboard artificial intelligence, so they were deemed perfect for critical bomb disposal operations.

User Control and VR

Before, experts used telecommunications cables to control bomb disposel robots from afar. This old model had 3D monitors to translate hand movements into robotic impulses. But due to some environmental factors, some gestures cannot be detected, deeming some operations to fail. The use of these cables also gave the robots a smaller operational radius.

Today, operators can already control bomb defusing robots digitally, while having an unparalleled and clearer view of the scenario. This was made possible with the use of virtual reality (VR) machines, like the ones used by SRI’s Taurus.

Power Supply

Aside from making these machines smaller and lighter, robot innovators have also found a way to improve their power supply. Considering the danger in hostile surroundings, these robots need more power and agility to survive. For that reason, engineers manufactured new power supplies that minimize the need for charging. Moreover, they made the batteries stronger, more cost-efficient, and longer-lasting.

Dexterity and Mobility

In the past, soldiers needed to deploy robots on the same ground level as the bomb. What if the explosive is on the fifth floor of a critically-protected building? Soldiers can’t blindly risk their lives to set up the machine. Even if cameras and sensors helped in bomb disposal, this did not solve the problem with the difficulty of placing the robot where it needs to be.
Today, you will see these robots climbing multiple flights of stairs and opening hinged and sliding doors. They can even get to areas on the battlefield that a person could not. This has become the standard for creating a better bomb disposal robot.

Robyn Matthews started writing about technology when she was far too young and hasn't stopped. She spends most of his time obsessing over computer software and hardware, and loves talking about herself in third person.