Atlanta Bomb Squad Talks About ‘Bots

pipebombSgt William Briley of the Atlanta PD Bomb knows what he’s talking about. He used to be a bomber for the military, blowing up bridges in Vietnam. He told Kris Tech Robot Magazine that “robots are the key to bomb safety, considering the increased trend of bombing in the U.S.”

Bombings Increasing? Absolutely. Remember the flurry of airlines hijacking in the late 60s and early 70s? Now, Americans should prepare for bombings. In fact, MOST improvised explosive devices are made by CHILDREN. And most would work. In a world where families are less stable, where an increasing number of children, black and white, are living without fathers (and mothers without jobs), proper socialization seems increasingly difficult. The weapon of choice for sociopaths is often a bomb: the anonymous expression of anger, the coward’s subconscious scream for help.

FOTO: pipe bomb, timer, shrapnel and satchel
Movies show the most impressive fiction. They show sophisticated triply booby trapped high tech explosives with digital detonators. And from a small pipe bomb comes a HUGE, city block-busting fireball. What do bomb squad guys think about the movies? I asked Staff Sgt Ray Pfand of the 9th EOD flight at Beale AFB, CA about his “favorite” movies. “Speed,” he says, “It’s hokey, He’s on the phone explaining the different colored wires. That wouldn’t help. There’s no standard for an improvised device.” And what about Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. “Dumb. Why would the bomb give them a countdown to get away? This job really ruins the movies for me.” Check out the police logs in most cities, even small towns, and you’ll find that, mostly, people are tossing cheap black-powder filled pipe bombs onto roofs, into cars and into mailboxes. Most of the time it’s just lethal vandalism, deadly tagging.

That’s How Americans Bomb Americans.
Briley gives a broad brush view of what really happens on the scene of a suspected bomb. Each incident is different, and each one relies heavily on the training of the officer and the type of device. The officer first calls for the Bomb Squad. The next folks on the scene are the Bomb Squad Diagnostic Team.

Once the Diagnostic Team approaches, more decisions have to be made on the spot. Should they take the time to put on an 85-pound blast suit (NOT air-conditioned, by the way), or just carry the bomb to a truck and drive it away? If he can, he’ll call in a robot, always remembering that in the Bomb Squad, DISTANCE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. So call in the robot.

Some details about the OlyBomb have leaked out, even though APD and the Feds aren’t talking. Using what we know, KrisTech Robot Magazine photographed a mock pipe bomb similar to the one used in Centennial Park. SSgt Pfand and ANDROS posed for pics, showing how an ANDROS robot approaches a bomb. Would he tell us how to disarm it? Would he demonstrate ‘render safe’ procedures? Couldn’t he just swear us to secrecy about operational details? Nope. And even if he would, we wouldn’t publish it. EOD types are justifiably cautious, and they are not about to tell their secrets. Lives are at stake. And although this publisher is PRO-First Amendment, we’re NOT going to help cop killers.

Briley has seen many robots, including one that failed for a dead battery two minutes into its demonstration. So he’s skeptical. But then, he’s been impressed with the ANDROS robot. “The finest robot I’ve been associated with,” he says.

Briley was so impressed with ANDROS, we had to do some more research: Over 400 remote-controlled ANDROS units are at work in almost every continent and hot spot, including Haiti, Bosnia and the Persian Gulf, ‘rendering safe’ explosives, securing airports (Atlanta, for instance ) doing nuclear maintenance, dragging wounded victims to safety, and assisting SWAT ops wearing night vision adapters. It can even open a door with a key. ANDROS attended the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Democratic National Convention.

ANDROS comes in heavy (all terrain) and light varieties, wheeled and tracked, some capable of being carried in the trunk of a car and lugged by one man. Information supplied by REMOTEC’s Shawn Farrow states that most models climb stairs, and can deliver cameras, microphones and telephones into hostage situations. They can also carry shotguns and X-ray machines.

In Portland, an ANDROS arrested a gunman, by pinning him to the ground! In another case, an ANDROS was SHOT by a crazed gunman during negotiations inside a house. (The robot kept working.) And in Atlanta, the OlyBomb exploded too soon for ANDROS to arrive. But ANDROS did bag a bomb-look-alike hoax device (with a note attached) at an Atlanta hospital during the Olympics. And ANDROS swept planes at Atlanta’s international airport. Considering President Clinton’s call for increased security against bombing, we can expect to see more bomb handling robots in action, on the nightly news, and on the streets.

My Olympic Bombing
There I Was…at treetop level in Centennial Park, with the best view in the house, except for some branches getting in the way. I could see Jack Mack and the Heart Attack playing loud funk on my right, and could hear “Time, time, time…is on my side” on my left. making everybody a little more mellow, especially at 1 a.m. There must have been fifty thousand people in the Global Olympic City that night, a lot of them families. Why would people keep their tiny kids up this late? To the left, Cuban and Argentinian teams are swaying back and forth, looking at the band like almost everyone else, often hooting, chattering and laughing amongst themselves at some observation about American women’s fashions.

At the bottom of a light and sound tower, on a park bench, two heavy-set security cops seem to be more concentrated than I like cops to be. One is peering inside a green knapsack (my heart skips a beat), while the other is quickly but politely asking people to move away. He’s waving his arms to say “Get Back!” to those who can’t hear his shouts above the music. The knapsack cop now fumbles with his mike, draws a deep breath and speaks some measured words into his radio. They both are moving outward from what I hope is simply a suspicious package. But they are moving too quickly, not lazily like bored cops going through the minimum motions of proper police procedure. Each one is hyper-aware, eyes, hips and hands locked in a hesitant five-steps-left, six-steps-right, one-step forward tango as they wave back the crowd. Some folks don’t notice, pierce the invisible police line, and five sit down on the bench next to the knapsack. The cops suddenly run back to the bench and order the people away, but not too politely this time. The crowd is sucked back into the vacuum toward the bench. One of the cops is visibly sweating, now. Their urgency triples, and they begin again to move the people back as other security forces converge and join the frayed invisible police line. Some are in Air Force berets, some in Army camo BDUs, some in Georgia white shirts. Only one has a side-arm. They have never met, have never worked together, but somehow they coordinate perfectly. No chiefs, no Indians, no cop egos. Just a shared and immediate need to move the crowd back without panicking it. My wife is wondering what I’m staring at: I haven’t blinked in two minutes.

I hear a whir and whiz from high torque electric and pneumatic motors behind me. At the walking entrance to the park a buffalump rises up to full mastadon height, its six legs shuffling slowly in an unfamiliar kind of elephant step. Infra-red rings surrounding each leg, feeler wires in each foot, and four video cameras at each rump search for walking obstructions, especially kids and dogs, near the intended footsteps. The buffalump aims toward the sound and light tower. There is a muffled voice coming from the unidirectional horn in the front of it’s buffalo-like head, saying something unintelligible. When the head turns toward me, I’m startled by the booming volume, “Stand back! Watch your children. Zurucktretten! Achtung auf Ihre Kinder.” The crowd parts rather quickly, and the buffalump gains speed. I’ve seen them hit 100kph on the open road on a National Geographic holo-vid before. This one only trots at walking speed, though, since the crowd is so dense and so near. The crowd only half pays attention. Cool aren’t they? Wow, imagine riding one. Ha Ha. But you can’t ride one. The buffalump’s hide is slicker than teflon, and the “skin folds” ripple like a snake’s slithering belly to discourage you from trying. You can’t run under one, either, because the hide droops almost all the way to the ground. Within 30-seconds, the buffalump passes me and slows to a stroll. I’m thinking how silent its footsteps are, how lightly each foot pad touches the ground, when it enters the invisible police line.

The buffalump’s head opens up, and it places its giant walrus-like mouth over the knapsack, engulfing the package with Kevlar armored cheeks. Inside its head, it x-rays the package and makes some independent choices without waiting for the humans at the Olympic Bomb Management Center to review the transmitted images. Noting there are no cop-killer tripwires, the buffalump rips the bag with the claws inside its head (where you expect teeth to be) , then grabs it and the nail-filled tupperware with two different grippers inside of its “throat,” and passes the bomb and shrapnel separately to different portions of its “stomach.”

Surrounded now by three thousand pounds of bulletproof hide impregnated with heat-reactive foam, the bomb is placed in the “pocket,” just below the buffalump’s “blowhole.” If the bomb were to detonate now, the force of the blast would be aimed upward to the sky, with the heat of the explosion sealing the foam around it, thus lengthening the duration of the conflaguration by a few milliseconds. The bomb would fizzle, or at least blow up less forceably.

Accompanied by a whush of white noise, a United Nations hovercopter appears over my head, and two shadows quickly descend. A black package lands first, followed almost instantly by a large man in an 85-pound air-conditioned blast suit with a three-quarter inch face shield. He ignores the package, and shuffles straight to the buffalump’s rear end. He activates a hand-held box, waving it near the buffalump’s butt, and an arm sized opening appears. The technician plugs a cable into it and reviews an image on his clipboard viewscreen. He is satisfied that this is a simple pipe bomb, no booby traps, three galvanized steel pipes taped together with a kitchen timer and a few wires leading to blasting caps. Inside, the buffalump already has several tools trained on various parts of the apparatus: tele-operated wire cutters surround each wire, a water cannon is aimed at the trigger, and censored by law enforcement authorities censored by law enforcement authorities censored by law enforcement authorities censored by law enfor.