The Wheelbarrow EOD robot has dutifully served the British Army since Lt. Col. Peter Mille first put one to work disarming IRA bombs in 1972. But these days, the 400 or so units currently deployed in the UK and abroad are quickly becoming legacy hardware. The British Ministry of Defence's replacement: a state-of-the-art bomb-bot that can disable an IED four times faster than its predecessor.
Northrop Grumman's division in Coventry, UK developed this EOD platform, dubbed the CUTLASS, for both military and domestic security forces. First demoed in 2007, the Cutlass can travel over hard and and soft terrain at speeds approaching 12 KPH thanks to its three-axle, six-wheel platform, a far cry from the treaded Wheelbarrow, which was based on a motorised wheelbarrow Lt. Col Miller bought at his local garden centre. What's more, the weather-proof CUTLASS can carry multiple tool and sensor loadouts so it will be able to inspect the suspect device and immediately begin disarming it, rather than inspect, run back to the operator, have its sensor set swapped for the disarming tools, then drive back to the IED, and get to work.
The CUTLASS's most impressive feature, however, is its extremely dexterous manipulator. With three fingers and nine degrees of movement, the bomb-bot can easily work in confined spaces while preserving the explosive device for further forensic investigation.
"CUTLASS will significantly enhance the ability of users to defeat and dispose of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices [IEDs] from a safe distance, and also to provide forensic information systems capability for national security and resilience," Danny Milligan, CEO of Northrop Grumman Information Systems Europe, said in a recent press statement.
The UK MoD has already ordered 80 such vehicles for deployment in counter-terrorism operations around the globe.