Friday, April 06, 2007

Bomb-sniffing Robots for military use

The growing technology has caused the increase in the use of robots in military. Fido robot, a product by iRobot Corporation, is capable of "sniffing" or detecting bombs. U.S. makes use of Fido robot in Iraq to minimize the US troops casualties in Iraq which is mainly caused by bombs. In fact, more than 70 % of U.S. casualties are due to bombs. Currently, there are approximately 5000 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are used to search for bombs inside caves, buildings, mines, roads, and cars. Besides the bomb-sniffing sensors, video cameras which are able to zoom and swivel are installed in Fido robot where it sends the image captured to the operator. By using this information, the operator then controls and commands the robot. Fido robot is also equipped with 7-foot manipulator arms which are useful to scan quite a long range of certain location like undercarriage of vehicles. At the end of the manipulator arms, the grippers are designed similar to humanoid hand so that the robot can disable or destroy bombs. By having these robots in war places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S casualties due to bombs can be reduced. The robots can be used to check ambiguous situations like abandoned cars or suspicious trash piles, so that there is no need to put soldiers' lives on the line. However, the sniffing-sensors are still susceptible to false positives which are usually caused by explosive residues, smoke and other contaminants. Nevertheless, reports by CNN show that since the robots arrived, no one has been hurt or killed when disarming the bombs. Personally I believe that Fido robot is very useful in a sense that it minimizes the casualties caused by bombs. However, this actually gives us the idea that it is possible that future wars can utilize robots as "killing machine". In fact, robots were already used to shoot and kill during recent Iraq's war until now. The name of the robot is Swords robot. They are controlled by the operator up to a mile away. By having cameras, laser sighting, thermal and night-vision sensors, they are much faster than any humans, and shoot with accuracy almost 100%. This definitely breaks the first robotic law which is "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm:. Therefore, stricter international rules and regulations are needed so that the laws of robotic can be fully enforced. References:

  3. Iraq's Robot Invasion U037052H - Osbert Poniman

11 comments: said...

Azhar Risyad Sunaryo u037028m

Wow, I think this robot is very useful. Imagine like a place that was used for wars where mines and other "bomb traps" are still left behind. Maybe this can be used to detect them and reduce the probability of people getting hurt.

Hmm just wondering, how does the bomb sniffing works? Is it by identifying heat of the bomb? or the smell of chemicals inside a bomb? I think this is a cool innovation.

Yup, the swords seems so scary though huhuhu said...

To Azhar,

Good question regarding the bomb detection! The website from CNN does not really tell how the robot sniffs the bomb.
However I just found a source from BBC. It is good in explaining the main ways to detect the presence of bombs.
1. A clock detector: it uses microwave to detect the presence of timing equipment
2. A metal detector: i think this one can be done by transmitting certain light, and observing the absorption light. Maybe someone can help me confirm this with reliable source?
3. Explosive detectors: the source also does not really tell how this can be done. It only says something about mechanical devices to detect this. I guess it uses something like smell-mechanism, just like dogs which are trained to sniff bombs.

But bombs like C4 which uses purely plastic with no metal compunds will be very hard to detect. Furthermore, it is odourless, and hence smelling mechanism may not work.

I also wonder how they detect this kind of bombs.

Here is the link:

Osbert Poniman U037052H

Jefferson U045932H said...

I remember not too long ago, maybe just the past few days only, that a few bomb-removal officers were killed while trying to dismantle a bomb.

Alongside were also a few other innocent citizens including children. I guess this kind of robot should be used more extensively. The accuracy may not be too important. If anything goes wrong, it would probably only the robot that is lost.

Medical said...

First of all, I must say that today is a great day for all peace loving citizens of this Earth. We can now sleep well knowing that less people need to die from the devastating weapon known as the bomb. By bombs, I do not mean just any form of explosives. Rather, I am referring to those sneaky contraptions that were made famous by suicide bombers.

I have always thought of modern weapons as devices meant for the cowardly. Let's put it this way, when you use modern weapons such as rifles or bombs, people get killed without knowing what hit them.

And worst of all, if the victims somehow manage to survive the attack, they would most probably be hideously disfigured, deformed, or be harassed by physical as well as psychological trauma for the rest of their lives.

With the invention of bomb-sniffing robots, everybody including myself just had their chances of being blown into bits and pieces reduced significantly since the robot is not only able to detect bombs, it will also serve as a form of deterrent for those bomb using cowards.

Some qualms I have with these robots is that they seem to be able to detect only certain types of explosives, and that they need to be controlled by somebody. Well, better let one person die than several I guess...

Brought to you by,
Nicholas (U045902U)
Nick said...

Additional note:

I have found another source about chemical sniffing. Timothy M. Swager, A professor of Chemistry at MIT, was just recently awarded $500k for his achievement in developing explosive chemical sniffing method through air sampling. This technology uses a polymer train which is able to attract nitroaromatic molecules for specifics chemicals used in bombs. The inventor also believes that this technology can be incorporated easily into robots or other bomb detectors.
For more details, you can refer to this website:,000/2100-1008_3-6172500.html

Osbert Poniman U037052H said...

To Nicholas:

Yup you are right that there are still some rooms for improvements for this robot since currently it still needs to be controlled by operator and perhaps it finds difficulty in detecting odourless bombs.

I think making the robot completely autonomous is a big task since it has to know exactly what to check, where to go, what to do, and then it must be "clever enough" to able to identify whether certain objects or locations are suspicious or have the potential of bombs. I wonder what kind of algorithm needs to be implemented into the robot.
But I am sure someday this thing can be achieved :)

Osbert Poniman U037052H

Medical said...

To me, I feel that the wide used of such robots by most countries still has a long way to go. Country that invented them usually do not want to share the technology with other countries due to many reasons such as wanting to be more superior in war, vulnerability of the robot being exposed etc.

Well, I guessed no one can really justified the truth reason for the war of Iraq. Should saving lives be restricted to only those who can afford it..

To a certain extent, I feel that the invention of such equipment may not necessary saves more lives but likely to promote more wars among countries. The country that owned the equipment is more likely to start a war as there are now less deterrances. Maybe, there should be some laws that only allow this kind of robots to be used only in their own country.

U036039B Kim Choon Ming, Alvin said...

To Osbert,

Wow, thx a lot for the informations :D hmm now I kind of can imagine how does this thing works :D

Great find :D

Azhar Risyad Sunaryo u037028m

Medical said...

Now, that is a very very useful robot! What the world needs at the moment. If technology and science can make atomic bombs possible, it should also be able to detect weapons of mass destruction and diffuse them! a welcome innovation indeed!

Apart from bomb detection and diffusing them, the fingerprints can be photographed using the robot's high-definition camera which can be used for investigation.

Balasubramanian Prasanna
U045872U said...

To Prasanna:

This is why technology can be double-edge sword. It can help and improve humans' life. But on the other hand, it can be used to kill, destroy, manipulate others. So the research of technology is also like this. One research is to improve bad things like creating bombs which are hard to detect, but on the other hand, the research is also done to detect any bombs more accurately.
I think this will continue forever unless world peace is achieved

Osbert Poniman U037052H said...

Oh my god, there's a lot of helpful info above!