UK soldiers design Raspberry Pi bomb disposal robot

Three soldiers in the British Army have used a Raspberry Pi to build an autonomous robot, as part of their Foreman of Signals course.

Meet The Soldiers Revolutionising Bomb Disposal

Three soldiers from Blandford Camp have successfully designed and built an autonomous robot as part of their Foreman of Signals Course at the Dorset Garrison.

Autonomous robots

Forces Radio BFBS carried a story last week about Staff Sergeant Jolley, Sergeant Rana, and Sergeant Paddon, also known as the “Project ROVER” team. As part of their Foreman of Signals training, their task was to design an autonomous robot that can move between two specified points, take a temperature reading, and transmit the information to a remote computer. The team comments that, while semi-autonomous robots have been used as far back as 9/11 for tasks like finding people trapped under rubble, nothing like their robot and on a similar scale currently exists within the British Army.

The ROVER buggy

Their build is named ROVER, which stands for Remote Obstacle aVoiding Environment Robot. It’s a buggy that moves on caterpillar tracks, and it’s tethered; we wonder whether that might be because it doesn’t currently have an on-board power supply. A demo shows the robot moving forward, then changing its path when it encounters an obstacle. The team is using RealVNC‘s remote access software to allow ROVER to send data back to another computer.

Applications for ROVER

Dave Ball, Senior Lecturer in charge of the Foreman of Signals course, comments that the project is “a fantastic opportunity for [the team] to, even only halfway through the course, showcase some of the stuff they’ve learnt and produce something that’s really quite exciting.” The Project ROVER team explains that the possibilities for autonomous robots like this one are extensive: they include mine clearance, bomb disposal, and search-and-rescue campaigns. They point out that existing semi-autonomous hardware is not as easy to program as their build. In contrast, they say, “with the invention of the Raspberry Pi, this has allowed three very inexperienced individuals to program a robot very capable of doing these things.”

We make Raspberry Pi computers because we want building things with technology to be as accessible as possible. So it’s great to see a project like this, made by people who aren’t techy and don’t have a lot of computing experience, but who want to solve a problem and see that the Pi is an affordable and powerful tool that can help.

7 comments

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This is a great project that will save lives and fits the Raspberry Pi model. Think of how many millions of dollars/Pounds this would cost if done by a contractor. These guys are on the front lines and know exactly what they need. More power to them.

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Sorry, but the army is not cool.
Please don’t normalyze weapons and present the army as a cool place where you can build stuff just like at home.
I hope that raspberry pi can focus on education and steer clear of any involvement with armies.

Couldn’t you add to your license that your products are meant for civilian use only.

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This is not a weapon; it is a bomb disposal robot – its sole purpose is to save the lives of either the ATOs who would otherwise have to defuse the bomb by hand, or the soldiers and civilians who would otherwise be killed or injured if the bomb exploded.

It’s very hard to see how anyone could object to that.

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I think that it is because of simple and easy ways to program computers, such as the raspberry pi, which means that more people will get attracted to the IT side of jobs and hobbies, which is good because of the increasing amount of computers in this modern society.

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I totally agree with Dosch even when this purpose might be peaceful.

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I’m intrigued to know how you think unexploded ordnance should be dealt with, then. Would you suggest leaving it alone until it blows up of its own accord, usually killing or maiming civilians in the process? Or would you prefer soldiers risk their lives in defusing it?

It’s a sad fact of life that there is a great deal of time and money invested in new ways of killing people. This was a project by some British Army soldiers to find better and cheaper ways of saving people’s lives – you only have to look at the list of proposed uses (“mine clearance, bomb disposal, and search-and-rescue campaigns”) to see that. A lot of the uses of the British armed forces in this day and age are to provide humanitarian aid, disaster relief and the like – do you also object to that if it is carried out by the military?

Leaving aside the fact that we as a company are not in a position to make demands about the end-use of our products, I think it’s safe to say that even if we were, this is not one to which we would object.

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Well said, Simon, I’m with you all the way!

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