A new robotic arm would give U.S. troops in Afghanistan the ability to feel the improvised explosive devices they are remotely trying to disarm, potentially allowing for greater precision than ever before.
The arm, called the RedHawk, gives its operator the sense of touch by using "haptic technology." The perceptions of force, vibrations, and motion allow the operator to feel like they are touching the object.
"RedHawk's haptic control technology reduces operator workload, preserves forensic evidence, and provides such realistic, intuitive feedback that operators can pick out an individual wire in an IED," said Bill Gattle of Harris Government Communications Systems.
The system's precision will aid the operator in dismantling an IED's triggering mechanism without destroying it, allowing the military to lift fingerprints or other clues to who made the bomb, according to the company.
A total of four sensors are built into the robots two fingers. If the sensors come in contact with an object like an IED, the sensors communicate that back to a grip like handle that the operator is using. The handle is equipped with motors to replicate the sensations.
"Anytime the robot would contact something you as the operator would feel like you have contacted it," said Paul Bosscher, a scientist at Harris Corporation that worked on the development of the arm. "It will feel like the grip of that handle is an extension of your own hand."
The arm can even be programmed to filter out an operator's shaky hand.
"You can be more precise with the robot than you are with (yiour) hand because you can adjust how sensitive the robot is," said Bosscher.
Harris Corporation revealed the robot during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's conference in Las Vegas, Nevada this week.
This is the first unit of its kind that will be available to the military, according to Bosscher. The arms are also plug-and-play, meaning they can be attached to the thousands of medium sized ground robots already owned by the military.
Defense Department officials are interested in the technology, which has been in development for three years, said Bosscher.
According to Harris Corporation RedHawk can also be used to disarm chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons as well as aid in first responder search and rescue operations.