Bomb disposal robot getting ready for front-line action
The University of Greenwich has joined forces with a Kent-based company in the design and manufacture of a bomb disposal robot for use by security forces, including the British Army.
The organisations have come together to create a lightweight, remote-operated vehicle, or robot, that can be controlled by a wireless device, not unlike a games console, from a distance of several hundred metres.
The innovative robot, which can climb stairs and even open doors, will be used by soldiers on bomb disposal missions in countries such as Afghanistan.
Experts from the Department of Computer & Communications Engineering, based within the university’s School of Engineering, are working on the project alongside NIC Instruments Limited of Folkestone, manufacturers of security search and bomb disposal equipment.
Much lighter and more flexible than traditional bomb disposal units, the robot is easier for soldiers to carry and use when out in the field. It has cameras on board, which relay images back to the operator via the hand-held control, and includes a versatile gripper which can carry and manipulate delicate items.
The robot also includes nuclear, biological and chemical weapons sensors.
Measuring just 72cm by 35cm, the robot weighs 48 kilogrammes and can move at speeds of up to eight miles per hour.
The two-year collaboration between NIC Instruments and the University of Greenwich, known as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, will run until September 2011. The main role provided by Greenwich was in lending NIC Instruments its expertise in electronic systems design and software engineering.
Dr Steve Woodhead, Reader in Computer Systems & Networks within the university’s School of Engineering, said: “It’s great to be able to employ our specialist knowledge to support a small manufacturing company in its next stage of development, as well as producing a vital security product.”
Key customers for the finished product are expected to include the defence and security forces of several EU countries. On the completion of the partnership, NIC Instruments predicts that its annual turnover will double within two to three years.
Steve Wisbey, the organisation’s Managing Director, said: “The partnership with the University of Greenwich has allowed us to expand our technology base considerably in a highly compressed timescale. We are now exploring way of extending our partnership, as other security projects between us are already under way.”
The university’s Greenwich Research & Enterprise office, which was instrumental in setting up the Knowledge Transfer Partnership, was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education magazine award in 2010 for Outstanding Research Management Team.