A Little Overkill, Maybe
It appears that technology got a little out of hand a
few weeks ago when a police robot firing high-tech
triple-warhead grenades destroyed a mobile home.
Reportedly, police officers used "satellite and heat sensor"
technology to track fugitive Junior Kemper Spradlin to a
trailer in Blountville, TN, after a high speed pursuit.
Spradlin, wanted for second-degree murder, was believed
to be hoarding a cache of multiple rifles and pistols, so
Blountville's answer to Barney Fife decided to send in a
robotic SWAT trooper to take charge. The bot set off
some sort of a pyrotechnic grenade, reported by the
local newspaper to resemble the Triple Chaser® sold by
Defense Technology ( www.defense-technology.com)
which is designed for outdoor crowd management.
When deployed, three canisters separate and land
about 20 feet apart, spewing out a continuous discharge
of CN, CS, and Saf-Smoke® gases. In the device's spec
sheet, the company warns, "It should not be deployed
onto rooftops, in crawl spaces, or indoors due to its fire-producing capability." As a result, the home was turned
into an inferno and destroyed.
Oh, I almost forgot. In all of the smoke and
confusion, the suspect escaped. SV
Mobile home in Blountville, TN,
destroyed by a SWAT bot.
Robots Out, Mules In?
At a recent robotics conference, Jim Overholt — senior
research scientist at the Army Tank Automotive Research,
Development, and Engineering Center
( armytechnology.armylive.dodlive.mil) — revealed that
systems such as the BigDog pack robot have achieved less
than stellar performance in Afghanistan, leaving soldiers
severely burdened with heavy loads in difficult terrain. As a
result, officials "at the highest level of the US Army and
Department of Defense" are contemplating a solution that
dates back to the 1800s: mules.
Apparently the beasts are tough enough to deal with
high altitudes and steep mountain slopes, so serious
consideration is being given to reviving the Army Animal
Corps. There are some obvious drawbacks, however,
including the fact that "when a mule gets shot, you don't
get to fix the mule." There would also be the requirement
of lugging water along for them to drink, and dealing with
the famously stubborn animals halfway up a rugged
mountainside would be no picnic. But sometimes flesh
and blood is still the only means to get the job done.
SERVO 08.2011 9