Law enforcement's tactical robots are a long ways off of the quick-witted Number 5 from the "Short Circuit" movies or even the decisive walking tank of the "RoboCop" series. Today's law enforcement robots are more of a high tech tool rather than a self-sufficient thinking machine.
Outfitted with high tech sensors and devices to accomplish many tasks, robots are often called to search high risk areas and return essential data to first responders positioned a safe distance away.
Robotic FX manufactures the Negotiator Tactical Surveillance Robot to support a variety of first response personnel with their difficult and often dangerous jobs while maintaining a cost-effective price tag.
"We want to remove the stigma a lot of people have with robots: if it's complicated, it must be expensive," says Jameel Ahed, president of the Worth, Illinois-based company. Robotic FX alleviates this stigma by creating a product that is simple to use, reliable, cost effective and capable. The integration of Negotiator robot accessories and COTS (consumer off-the-shelf) sensors provide the Negotiator with a simple plug-and-play payload architecture meant to adapt to many tactical users including police, fire, hazmat, bomb/arson, military and other government agencies. This architecture is meant to reduce costs by allowing the purchase and integration of accessories as needs arise or as funding becomes available.
Robotic FX's mission statement exemplifies the Negotiator's design objective. "Our mission is to help first responders make informed decisions from a safe distance," notes Ahed.
The plug-and-play architecture connects virtually any peripheral device (sensors, detectors, external devices, etc.) through a port located in the robot's cargo area, then transmits that peripheral's data to the operator control unit (OCU).
The 8-pound, handheld OCU can be substituted for a wearable heads-up-display (HUD). With the HUD, the operator is able to view what the Negotiator's cameras see through a goggled view instead of on the OCU's screen.
The plug-and-play architecture of the Negotiator robot expands its capabilities, makes upgrading easier without the need for high tech procedures to incorporate new technology and, in effect, makes operation more accessible.
The base Negotiator Tactical Surveillance Robot weighs 25 to 27 pounds, measures 25 inches by 16 inches by 7.6 inches and runs on a track-and-wheel set. Included in the base package is a high-resolution color video camera for easy driving with the OCU, batteries and a trickle charging system. The standard Negotiator robot has an analog video transmission system, with a digital video system available as an upgrade.
Two-way digital audio communication provides for talk-and-listen communication from the robot's surrounding area to the operator manning the OCU.
An important part of a robot's work is communicating data back to the operator. This ranges from the visual feed from a camera and the warning from a gas/chemical detection sensor to the display of the robot's battery gauge. This data communication is called telemetry. "Telemetry is the wireless automatic measurement and transmission of data," explains Chris Rains, Robotic FX's production supervisor. A robot can reduce or eliminate the risk to personnel by carrying sensors normally used by first responders and hazmat teams into the situation, and then transmit that information back to the operator.
"First responders can use the Negotiator robot for many of the dangerous tasks they'd normally have to do themselves," adds Ahed. "Now it is not only a faster operation, but a safer operation as well."