Thursday, September 22, 2011

Utah Robots Win Prize To Clear UXO?

Two companies based in Utah recently released a press release that they had received top prizes in a Department of Defense competition for Robotic Range Clearance.

The companies involved are Kairos Autonomi and Autonomous Solutions. They use Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS) to accomplish their tasks. The press release is a little difficult to wade through due to technical language, but the long and the short of it seems to be that the robots needed to be able to remove UXO from a variety of scenarios.

These scenarios included: 1) Vegetation Clearance, 2) Surface Clearance, 3) Geophysical Mapping, and 4) Subsurface Clearance. They're currently going to be available for US ranges, presumably to get rid of unexploded weapons from testing exercises.

It remains to be seen whether or not these would be viable in Laos or other Southeast Asian nations where cluster bombs and other unexploded weapons still remain a danger to civilians nearly 40 years since the end of the war. Their effectiveness in subsurface clearance would be of particular interest. But it will likely be a long time before they are cost-effective to introduce to the region.

But from the looks of the Kairos Autonomi, these can be retrofitted to existing vehicles which might ease integration. There are many key questions to ask.

During the war for Laos in the 20th century, more tons of bombs were dropped on the nation than were dropped on all of Europe during World War II. Over 1/3rd of them failed to explode, with over 70,000,000 pieces still estimated to linger across 30% of the Lao countryside. The majority of bombs discovered must currently be removed and cleared by hand.

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