Wis. police get robo-cop's help

By Brian Huber,
The Waukesha Freeman

WAUKESHA- The newest member of the Waukesha Police Department won't require much city investment other than a place to stay, routine maintenance and maybe an occasional lube job. That is, once it gets here.

For the past several months, police officer Daniel Baumann has been working with engineering students in Milwaukee and area companies to design and build a wireless tactical robot for use in standoffs or other tactical situations.

While some companies offer a similar product, Baumann said they were bulky and not designed for tactical situations.

"We wanted to do the wireless thing where you get it into a building and let it go," he said. "It's not a cure to solve all police problems when it comes to tactical situations, but it's a good tool to use in a tactical situation...or to pinpoint a victim and create a tactical plan."

So Baumann recruited a group of about seven students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, who designed and built the robot for a senior project last year, with the help of various area companies who donated time and parts to the project.

The result, Baumann said, was a robot that will cost the city nothing and provide a measure of safety for police officers. The robot will be fitted with video capability, including night vision, a Taser and possibly two-way communications ability, he said. It has the ability to conquer stairs and a variety of surfaces. The possibilities are limited only by technology, Baumann said.

"Since it's an exploratory project, we didn't want any city money behind it," Baumann said. "We wanted to try to do it with as much donations as possible."

But in testing the robot throughout spring, the consortium encountered a problem: It works fine outside, but once inside, it loses the ability to "hear" its remote controls. The robot was sent to HED Corporation in Hartford, where project manager Razi Ahmed said it has come and gone a few times.

The problem, he said, is the radio controls on it are designed to work in an open area and do not fare so well in enclosed spaces.

Copyright 2006 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
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