Updated June 2022 ⚙️ In 2016, bomb-disposal robot became the delivery system for 1-lb C4 explosive — essentially becoming an improvised explosive device (IED) to kill a Dallas sniper — in turn responsible for shooting and killing five police officers. Strange as it seems, the bomb robot became a bomb delivery system.
Bomb-disposal robots have been around for quite some time — and have been adapted various applications. In emergency situations, these rugged robots carry cameras into dangerous and unstable structures to allow experts to assess a given situation. Such robots have also been used to carry sensors for detecting dangerous chemical vapors.
Mobility platforms for the robots are generally of the two-parallel-track variety. Many different drivetrains have been used … and various teams continue to experiment with different mechanical arrangements to provide mobility in complex terrains. The Mars rover with six-wheel drive and articulating wheels is just one example of a solution to the mobility objective.
Tracks are very rugged … and because of their extensive use in military and offroad applications, many design engineers have experience with how these systems survive extreme situations. There is no steering mechanism to go wrong from damage, because turning is the result of speeding up or slowing down one track versus the other. Control for this type of platform is relatively simple for a small embedded processor.
For mobile robotics, small and efficient brushless servomotors with gear reducers provide an excellent source of power. These help keep robot weight low so they don’t necessitate heavy battery payloads to make the robot effective. Somewhat like a radio-controlled car, these robots have a limited operating range. Range is a design parameter that can be defined by the engineer, more batteries, more range. The same is true for electric cars — with the exception that the payload requirement is very low.
The last few years have seen incredible innovations in mobility platforms of all kinds. Flying drones, tracked robots, two-wheel mobility platforms such as the Segway are proliferating and people are experimenting with all kinds of bizarre variations. We have seen aerial drones that shoot guns … and now, bomb disposal robots that can deliver bombs.
Is there an ethical challenge here? Have we found ourselves in the position of a municipal government killing an American citizen on our own home soil? The ethics of the Dallas case were clear and unequivocal to some people. Even so, the classic connotations of the phrase IED may need adjusting … especially when IEDs are wielded by law enforcement instead of insurgent combat forces in war.
Related: RE2 Robotics Inc. patent for a fluid rotary joint
A new fluid rotary joint from RE2 Robotics is capable of precise positioning while being driven by both fluids and gasses — including water, hydraulic fluid, and air. RE2 intelligent mobile manipulation systems work in various environments on robotic arms, intuitive controllers, and advanced autonomy software. The fluid rotary joint was developed during the design of an inflatable underwater manipulator for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) applications; it can be used in robotic arms to provide precise rotational positioning for dexterous manipulation. A strain-wave gear and fluidic actuators make for a compact joint.
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Filed Under: Mechatronic Tips