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Protecting anti-bomb robots from bombs: a good idea?

settembre 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The increasingly intensive use, in war zones, of expensive technological equipment to protect soldiers from possible threats, such as IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), leads to an interesting paradox. In fact, QinetiQ, manufacturer of a series of anti bomb robots used by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, is planning to equip their Talon robot series with a jammer to prevent the use of any remote detonation systems.

Worldwide, there are over 2800 of these radio-controlled devices, which are used to collect and disable or detonate bombs, while the military personnel who control it are sitting at a safe distance. Many of these robots have been damaged or irretrievably destroyed by the same bombs that they were trying to neutralize, and Iraqi insurgents know well that launching rockets against the robots means depriving U.S. soldiers of a significant part of their technological advantage.

Therefore, protecting these robots certainly makes sense in terms of safety. However, one of the main reasons why “expendable” robots are used is their relatively low cost (approximately 100 thousand dollars) as well as their easy repair them in case of damage, and the fact that they do not carry any kind of secret technology that may be helpful for enemies.

Instead, providing them with additional technology could result in a switch of the rebels’ interest no longer (or not only) in harming enemy soldiers, but also in the capture of valuable technological equipment.
Even in Afghanistan, American soldiers found themselves more than once in situations where they had to fight to reclaim their drones, exposing themselves to danger just to save the technological equipment that was supposed to keep them away from danger.

According to QinetiQ, however, the use of jammers should protect not only their robots, but also the soldiers who follow them to verify that all bombs were neutralized.

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