Robots have been defusing bombs for 40 years. They go where people are afraid to even look. Among many other activities, the disposal of bombs and other explosive devices is one of the most dangerous, where the risk of death lies in wait at every turn. Over the past 40 years, hundreds, if not thousands of times, have resorted to the help of sapper robots. However, the term “robot sapper” is in some way incorrect, since technically they are not robots.
These robots work as devices forthe remote presence of bomb disposal experts, or “bomb doctors,” as they used to be called in the British Army. Thanks to such robots, experts carefully study the devices without endangering themselves and others. After the device has been examined, the robot can (if it can) defuse the bomb.
Robots turn off not only bombs, but also other devices that can detonate: for example, anti-personnel mines or unexploded ordnance.
One of the first robots created forthe disposal of explosive devices was Wheelbarrow Mark 1. In 1972, Lt. Col. Peter Miller of the British Army came up with the idea of using a wheelbarrow on an electric-powered chassis to tow suspicious devices, like car bombs, so that they could be detonated safely without harming anyone.
However, the Wheelbarrow prototype was difficult to maneuver, so the military was recruited to refine the control and tracking system.
Miller later added Major Robert's “piggy stick”Patterson - an army term for a powerful stream of water - to Wheelbarrow. With it, Wheelbarrow defuses a bomb, and not just drags it away.
The main thing in modern operations of disposalbombs - to make an explosive device inert, preventing it from detonating. Usually, sapper robots achieve this by releasing a jet of water under high pressure onto the wires of the device. An explosive device usually requires a source of energy for detonation: wire damage means that the circuit is broken and the ammunition becomes inert, if not safe. But some devices have a spare system, which leads to its operation upon contact. Therefore, bomb disposal is best done by a robot.
“When they control a robot, they look for where they canlet out a stream of water, ”says a man from the army. - If they release it into the wire and the wire turns off, it becomes safe, at least for someone who goes ahead and says that he is safe. Therefore, nothing explodes in such cases. "
Sapper robots are controlled by operators withsafe distance. They see what the robot sees thanks to a series of cameras on the outer casing of the robot; view is transmitted to the monitors of operators. Usually, one camera is mounted in front of the robot so that the operator sees what is happening, and the second camera is mounted on the manipulator, providing a wide view of the surrounding space.
Original robots for disposalexplosive devices controlled by a series of ropes. As technology developed, the team began using a telecommunication cable to transfer the team to the robot’s electrical systems. However, the cable greatly limits the working radius of the robot. There is also a risk that the cable will become tangled or capture the object.
Nowadays, most robotic sapperscontrolled by wireless technology. Although this greatly increases their operating range, there is also a risk of hacking, although this is not so simple due to the participation of the military.
“As a rule, you do not have direct line of sight andthese robots are manually reset, so the umbilical cord will only bother you, ”says Professor Setu Vijayakumar, director of the Edinburgh Robotics Center. “In this sense, they are very similar to drones with a range of several kilometers.”
The design of robots for disposal onsurprise has changed little since the first days of their creation, since the basic idea remains unchanged. Technologies become smaller and more reliable, and sapper robots remain “on a leash”, controlled by people, with an invariable “hand” that can manipulate suspicious devices.
If we talk about mobility, sapper robotsgot rid of the variation of tank tracks and acquired first two pairs of tractor tracks, and then six or more wheels. They allow robots to move around difficult terrain. Some are even able to climb stairs.
The manipulator of the robot sapper is very mobile. Most groups of sappers have a large set of tools that can be attached to the manipulator. This allows the robot to overcome various obstacles that would otherwise hinder its progress. For example, cut a slot into a wire fence with pliers.
Given that sapper robots are designed toworking in various adverse conditions, they can survive a moderate number of "assassination attempts". “Most of their cost is in electronics, and the sensors are prepared for the most atrocious conditions,” says Vijayakumar. "Not to those in space, but almost."
There are different robots for defusing bombssizes, from small soldiers who can do it in a backpack to robots the size of a lawnmower, armed with X-ray devices and explosive detectors.
Initially, the management of such robots wascomplex and required special training; and now game consoles are used to control them. “The premise, in such difficult conditions, was to make management intuitive and as simple as possible,” says Vijayakumar. “You can equip it with the most sophisticated functionality, but the lawn mower will have to understand it, not robotics. Therefore, management should be reduced to a joystick, game controller. ”
Advances in Robotics and Systemsremote control have led to the fact that sapper robots are increasingly adapting to the environment. Prototypes are being developed that can jump over walls and land on the other side. They make robots with two hands so that they are clever and can, for example, open the trunk of a car and look inside.
Special robots are also being developed, each with its own purpose. They will work in a team: one, for example, sniffs out explosives, and the other neutralizes it.
In the end, in the worst case scenario, if the robot is sacrificed, none of the living will suffer.