11/20/2003

Robot added to sheriff's bomb squad

By Bill Douthat
The Palm Beach Post

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. A track-footed robot that can retrieve explosive devices from buildings, stairways or even underwater was added Thursday to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's bomb squad.

"It gets into a lot tighter corners for us," bomb squad Lt. Ralf Kreling said of the lightweight robot that replaces a bulky 400-pound model that has been in use for 17 years.

The new TALON robot can move quietly at a speed up to 4 miles an hour on its rubber tracks and turn on a dime. Its armor can withstand rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. If equipped with its own weaponry, the robot can return fire or dispense gas.

Both the robot and a new trailer-mounted bomb containment vessel were displayed Thursday by the sheriff's office. The costs, $110,000 for the robot and $230,000 for the bomb containment device, were paid from forfeitures and leftover money in the sheriff's budget.

The old robot and a smaller containment device are being transferred to a sheriff's bomb unit in the south end of the county.

The sheriff's office examined six or seven robot products before deciding on the TALON, said Capt. Bill Testa of the sheriff's emergency response division that includes the bomb squad. He said TALONs are used by U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Testa said the robot can be loaded with audio and video gear that send live reconnaissance to commanders at critical incident scenes.

To handle bombs, the robot has a double-jointed, 64-inch pincer arm to grab and transport explosive devices. The robot is manufactured by the Foster-Miller company of Waltham, Mass.

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