Thai university develops cheaper bomb disposal robots

Thai university develops cheaper bomb disposal robots

Apart from an unspecified lower price for the prototype robots, compared to the Bt12 million (SGD $470,000) apiece for the imported variety, the robots are also customised to suit the unique combat conditions, environment and user interface in the southernmost provinces, said Asst Prof Pumyos Vallikul, an engineering and aerospace lecturer at the university.

Along with the cost, Pumyos said another drawback from using the imported robots was the fact the manufacturers had forbidden modifications being made.

Prof Dr Suthipun Jitpimolmard, the director of the Thailand Research Fund, which backed the three-year-old Bt4.36-million project, said a mechanism had been invented which was incorporated into the robots as a by-product.

Suthipun said the mechanism had been registered as intellectual property and had the potential to be developed further into a system that could be commercialised.

There are three robots. The first has a track-driven body and an arm with a plier-like hand that can hold bombs and move them away for disposal.

The second robot has a track-driven body, a mechanical arm and a high-power water jet used to blow open suspicious items or destroy or make bomb circuits malfunction.

The third robot has a high-mobility body and a high-resolution camera to probe or explode bombs.

Suthipun said the project had reduced the dependence on imported parts for the imported robots' basic maintenance while making self-reliance a possibility.

Pumyos said the robots worked as a team to minimise the chance of them being destroyed by a bomb.

The university recently handed over the three prototypes to the Royal Thai Army's Ordnance Department so it could test them out.

Pumyos said the development of the robots was based on the Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit's in-the-field methods.

For example, a high-powered water jet is installed near a suspicious object by an EOD officer. Robot type three would then be used to identify the object. If it is a bomb, robot type two would defuse it by attacking its circuits with the high-power water jet.

If it needs to be placed elsewhere before being defused, robot type one is used.

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