ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
United Kingdom Purchases Harris Corp. Bomb Disposal Robots
LONDON — The United Kingdom announced Sept. 13 that it would be purchasing dozens of U.S.-based Harris Corp.'s T7 bomb disposal robots, in a contract worth $70 million.
The systems are “equipped with high definition cameras, lightning-fast data links, an adjustable manipulation arm and tough all-terrains treads,” said Sir Michael Fallon, the United Kingdom’s secretary for defense. “These are sophisticated systems that use advanced haptic feedback that can allow operators to feel their way through the intricate process of disarming … improvised explosive devices.”
The robots will ensure that soldiers stay safe during dangerous missions, he said during a speech at the Defence and Security Equipment International Conference held at the ExCel in London.
The United Kingdom plans to purchase 56 robots through the program — known as Project STARTER — which should be delivered in totality by December 2020.
The robot weighs 710 pounds, can be operated for eight hours at a time, and can lift 250 pounds when the arm is near its chassis, according to Harris documents. The systems will be built in the company's Melbourne, Florida, factory.
Adrienne Ondrusek, systems engineering lead for robotic systems at Harris’ C4I and electronic systems division, said the robot is able to connect to its control system up to 0.6 miles away. The multi-mission T7 can be used on the battlefield as well as for homeland security.
Ondrusek noted that the IED threat is likely to endure, and systems such as the T7 can protect soldiers and public safety personnel.
It can also be used in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense missions, she said. A sensor, which Harris does not provide, could be attached to the gripper at the bottom of the robotic arm to detect certain chemicals, she said.
One of the key features of the system is its patented haptic technology, Ondrusek noted.
What it “allows the operator to do is feel the environment that the robot is in,” she said during an interview at the show. Users are able to move the robot by gripping an easy-to-use controller.
“When the robot makes contact with something, they can feel it in their hand,” she said. “It augments the camera view so when you’re only in a 2D view you can actually tell, 'Oh, I’ve made contact with something.'”
The U.K. Ministry of Defense is the first customer for the system, which has been in development for three years, Ondrusek said. This deal could help the company land more orders, she added.
“The U.K. is definitely a world leader … in robotics and setting the stage for what technologies are being used effectively,” she said. “So them having this confidence and doing this procurement I think really opens the door for other international opportunities.”
Selling to allied European countries will be a focus area for Harris, she said.