The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently awarded a 12-month project for $422,330 to JGW International Ltd. based in Reston, Virginia, to develop a universal operator control unit (OCU) system for four separate robotic platforms used for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). In fall 2015, DHS S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) requested proposals from vendors with rapid technology solutions to help solve critical capability gaps identified by first responders across the country. This is one of several related awards that FRG has announced in the past few months related to that solicitation.
Current OCUs are typically compatible with a single robotic platform only, even if the robots are produced by the same vendor. Bomb technicians can spend up to eight hours every month training on each system to maintain proficiency; a universal system that operates several platforms at once would significantly reduce the amount of dedicated training time. It also reduces the amount of equipment responders need to maintain and transport to an incident scene.
S&T will work with JGW International Ltd. and Reamda Ltd. (their EOD research and development project partner) to develop a platform that will enable bomb technicians to operate multiple robotic platforms using a single, standardized control unit console. The technology will lead to greater interoperability, lessen training requirements, and reduce operating costs from maintaining (and transporting) multiple devices. The effort will be part of FRG’s Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program, a joint effort with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to develop countermeasures public safety bomb squads can use to safely and efficiently dispose of improvised explosive devices.
“We are really excited to be able to take an existing, off-the-shelf technology and enhance it to become compatible with multi-vendor OCUs,” said FRG’s REDOPS program manager Byung Hee Frantz. “At the end of the day, having one system that can operate several unmanned ground vehicles will cut back on training hours so bomb techs can focus on field work. It can also enhance mutual aid efforts, allowing for one common operating protocol for up to four robotic devices across federal, state, and local agencies.”