army bomb disposal robot

Bomb disposal robots offer ability to “feel” during disarming

Image credit: pa

The British Army has taken delivery of the first of four bomb disposal robots that include haptic feedback to allow their operators to “feel” their way through disarming explosive devices.

Four Harris T7 unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) worth almost £1m each have been delivered to explosive ordnance units, the first of 56 due to begin service by 2020.

The robots use state-of-the art “advanced haptic feedback”, in which vibration is used to guide an operator’s hand movements as they work to defuse a device from a safe distance.

Haptic technology, also known as haptics, is used to generate the vibration sensitivity found in some modern computer game controllers. It is also being investigated for use in complex medical surgery.

The robots endured a variety of tests during an eight-week “acceptance” trials period at UK and US sites chosen to put them through their paces. They took part in trials including multi-terrain driving, a series of battlefield missions, weightlifting and dexterity tasks, climatic and vibration testing, high stress capabilities, live-firings, maximum traversing angles and interoperability assessments.

The MoD said the system was “designed to provide operators with human-like dexterity while they operate the robot’s arm using the remote-control handgrip” giving them “physical feedback, allowing intuitive detailed control”.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “These robots will go on to be an essential piece of kit, preventing harm to innocent civilians and the brave operators who make explosives safe.

“The robots will provide the Army with the latest bomb-disposal technology and will prove to be trusted companions both on UK streets and in deadly conflict zones.”

The T7 also comes with equipment including HD cameras and all-terrain tank-style tracks and will replace the Army’s Wheelbarrow Mk8B remote controlled robots, which have been in operation since 1972 and will be phased out from 2020.

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