Written by Brian Betts exclusively for SouthFront
As the terrorist crouched in a room within El Centro Community College, clutching a rifle and hurling abuse at the Dallas Police waiting outside, death was approaching in automata. Extending its main appendage, the Northrop Grumman Mark V-A1 bomb disposal robot placed C4 on the back-side of a brick wall the terrorist was positioned against.
After a fierce 45-minute gun battle and tedious two hour negotiation phase, a plan was devised to end the stand-off with no further risk to officers. This plan, which was to become the first official use of a robot to kill a citizen on U.S. soil, was devised in “15-20 minutes,” according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The justification given for using a weaponized unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) was the so-called “objective reasonableness test,” which indicated that multiple officers would agree that a robot delivering explosives was the best course of action given the violent suspect shouting out his desire to take more lives.
After placing a single pound of C4, the robot retreated. When the C4 was detonated, the robot’s extension arm was damaged slightly, but otherwise, the terrorist shooter took the brunt of the explosive force, dying of over-pressure and shrapnel wounds from the wall.
Northrop Grumman Mark V-A1
This ANDROS bomb disposal robot, which delivered the killing blow to the terrorist in Dallas, is often imported into police departments through the 1033 Program. This program is designed to bring military-grade hardware to departments which demand extra capabilities.
The robot’s primary specifications are as follows:
Vision: Four cameras with color/low-light modes, 72:1 zoom, pan/tilt
Power: 24VDC – Two 65 amp-hr 12VDC spiral-cell batteries
Appendage: Gripper with interchangeable accessory mounts, 8 ft. reach
Command and Control: Vehicle-bound fiber optic cable, radio control, tether cable
Communication: Two-way audio, weatherproof speaker and microphone
Weight: ~800lbs (Depending on loadout)
Top Speed: 3.5 mph
Cost: $180,000, Dallas (1033 Discount Price $151,000)
While not designed to deliver weapons, the Mark V-A1 in Dallas proved to be a stealthy and able assassin. Regardless of its configuration, the end result demonstrates the combat competence of this robot against an armed and armored target in a defensive position.
Less than a week after the Dallas shooting, three officers from the Baton Rouge area were killed by a terrorist. After the terrorist shooter in Baton Rouge was taken down by responding officers, a bomb disposal robot was used to verify that no explosives were present on the body.
Republican National Convention (RNC)
According to public records, “more than 20 robots similar to the one in Dallas have been transferred to local law-enforcement agencies in Ohio, including at least three to the State Highway Patrol.”
The sheer number of transferred robots would suggest preparations for a wide variety of potential missions at the RNC. In addition to larger robots such as the Mark V-A1, the defensive contingency for the RNC convention in Cleveland includes a variety of smaller robots drawn from the second-largest 1033 purchase in America. At 40 robots, Ohio police departments are only behind California (272 purchases) in military-grade robot purchases.
At $10,000-19,000 the Multi-function Agile Remote-Controlled Robot (MARCbot) is a popular bomb disposal robot used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The robot is relatively light at 32 lbs. The ‘Marcbot’s’ batteries allow it to operate for six hours.
The Robotic Reality
Widespread political and public support for robotic response units to oppose human criminal elements will set a course for consequences delivered via automated systems. Terrorists, lone-wolf and group alike, will have to face the reality that once they are suppressed or cornered, combat-capable robots are an inevitable consequence.
The perceived impact death-by-robot will have on a given cause is left to be seen. What is known is that in addition to sparing their officers from physical harm, robots allow operators to build skills and take risks in missions; even if their machine is destroyed, the knowledge is retained.