One of the biggest problems with explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) is the risk to the lives of the people carrying out the disposal operation. Many heroic people have died over the years trying to make areas safe and reduce the risk to others. But the development of technology and improved unmanned explosive ordnance disposal robots and associated demining equipment has helped to reduce this risk and to save the lives of the experts involved.
History of unmanned ground vehicles
The use of remote-controlled military vehicles started as far back as the early 20th century. A method to wirelessly control ships was created in 1910 while the Soviet Union used remote-controlled tanks in the Winter War in the 1930s and also early in World War II.
The benefits were always clear – exposure to hazards was reduced as the person operating the equipment could do so at some distance. When the need for bomb disposal became more prevalent, both the military and civilian forces such as the police realised that this unmanned, remote-controlled system was safer than any other previous method of bomb disposal.
As with many things, while the idea was clearly a benefit, the technology wasn’t in a place to make it a reality. In recent years, however, there have been many developments that have expanded the ability to create remotely controlled and unmanned equipment for a wide range of tasks.
The Dragon Runner is one of the more famous examples of a multi-purpose remote-controlled robot. Created for the military in the US, it has four wheels, is around 40cm in length and can cope with rugged conditions, even up and down stairs. It can be thrown from a third story window, land and carry out the job it has been given!
The idea is that equipment such as this can go into place either inaccessible to people or too dangerous to risk. They have various uses including detecting if someone is present in a room and can also be adapted for bomb disposal experts to use to find and disrupt improvised explosive devices.
Unmanned ground vehicle
Not all the developments in the field all been small and lightweight – many expert unmanned ground vehicle manufacturers have created much larger types of unmanned ground vehicle that can undertake comprehensive landmine disposal to assist demining operations.
One example is the Armtrac 20T Robot. This is at the heavier end of the small unmanned ground vehicle category that can be fitted with a variety of different toolkits to allow it to undertake different demining and explosive ordnance disposal roles. These include a demining flail, tiller and a rear robotic arm which can fit different EOD toolkits. It can also carry a detector system at the front end and a disruptor at the rear on the robotic arm.
The result of this is that the equipment can undertake mechanical demining clearance in areas with restricted access. It can conduct small clearance operations and area reduction as well as clearing away vegetation for manual or animal-assisted demining. It can be used for reconnaissance and technical survey, all without risk to the human operator. And the range of different equipment that can be fitted to it allows it to easily be customised for the job at hand.
From the small bomb disposal robot to the big unmanned ground vehicles for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), these developments save lives from the operations they carry out to the people carrying them out. While explosive ordnance disposal is always a risky business, the use of advanced technology has reduced these risks and improved the rate of detection to help make areas safer more quickly and with less risk to the population.