Remote-Controlled Robot May Defuse Suitcase Bombs in the Future

First Posted: Jan 05, 2016 11:46 AM EST

A remote-controlled robot may be able to inspect suitcase bombs in order to keep humans free from danger-and the blast radius. Researchers are developing a remote-controlled sensor system that may make checking possible suitcase bombs a lot safer.

Anyone who forgets their luggage in public places, such as airports or train stations, can spark a large-scale police operation. While most abandoned luggage items turn out to be harmless, enforcement proceeds on the assumption of possible danger and check on the assumption that they are dealing with an improvised explosive device (IED) that may blow up at any time. This involves getting closer to the luggage to inspect it.

Needless to say, a system that could make it possible to assess the danger of the situation quickly and record 3D images of the contents and shape of the bag could be huge when it comes to making specialists' work easier.

Now, researchers are working on doing just that. They've developed a system that's made up of a multimodel sensor suite consisting of a millimeter wave scanner, a high-resolution digital camera, and a 3D environment monitoring system. All these components are contained in a housing that's mounted no a robot platform.

Bomb disposal engineers remotely control the robot from a safe distance, and its swiveling 3D sensors make a three-dimensional survey of the crime scene. Meanwhile, the millimeter wave sensor scans the source of danger and creates an image of what's inside. The robot then sends the data to investigators.

"Up to now our techniques have not allowed us to form a 3D outline of suitcase bombs, and it has been impossible-or only partially possible-to make a spatial map of the contents," said Stefan A. Lang, team leader, in a news release. "With the sensor suite we can visualize in three dimensions what's inside a luggage item, and so determine the composition of the bomb and how the parts are arranged in the luggage."

The findings could be huge for assessing threats in the field. More specifically, it could make specialists' jobs a little bit safer.

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