Project example: AVERT
Robots increase safety for bomb squads
Together with five European partner institutions, researchers from the ZHAW School of Engineering developed a robot for bomb squads. It enables bomb technicians to remove suspected terrorist vehicles from a safe distance away instead of having to enter the danger zone themselves.
When a car bomb is suspected in the future, robots could serve the police or military as mobile removal squads. In the context of the EU-FP7 research programme, ZHAW researchers worked with five European partner institutions from four countries to develop the “Autonomous Vehicle Emergency Recovery Tool” (AVERT). It enables bomb technicians to remove blocking or suspicious vehicles quickly and safely from high-risk areas, such as multi-storey car parks, underground parking garages and tunnels. The robot is first taken to the site of the operation manually. Rigged with cameras and sensors, it creates a 3D image of the entire scene and then autonomously approaches the vehicle that is to be removed. At this point, the robot engages four flat mini-robots – known as ‘bogies’ – equipped with scanners. These move under the wheels of the vehicle on their own and raise it a few centimetres. The bomb disposal unit then has the option of driving the vehicle away via remote control or semi-automatically. This is possible thanks to the control system developed for the AVERT overall system by the Institute of Mechatronic Systems (IMS) at the ZHAW School of Engineering. ZHAW students were also involved in research within the framework of Bachelor’s and Master’s theses.
“With AVERT, bomb disposal units can move the suspicious vehicle in any direction from a safe distance and make more space for the defusing measures – without putting infrastructure or people at risk.”
Christopher Henschel, project head, Institute of Mechatronic Systems
Collaboration with anti-terror specialists
“The previous methods for removing such vehicles were very dangerous for bomb technicians, especially when the vehicles were in hard-to-reach locations,” Christopher Henschel, ZHAW project head, explains. “With AVERT, bomb disposal units can move the suspicious vehicle in any direction from a safe distance and make more space for the defusing measures – without putting infrastructure or people at risk.” In collaboration with bomb squad specialists in Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland (Zurich Airport police and Scientific Department of the Stadtpolizei Zurich city police), AVERT was customised to meet real-life demands. During the past months, the robot has proved itself in various test scenarios. In the near future, AVERT should complement existing strategies and resources and thereby increase safety during critical operations.
At a glance
Project website: avertproject.eu
Participating institutes and centres:
- BB Ingenieure – Ingenieurbüro Dr. Bernd Birkicht, Germany
- DUT – Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
- FW – ForceWare GmbH, Germany
- IDUS – IDUS Consultancy Ltd., Great Britain
Financing: European Commission
Project status: completed