Fla. department's bomb squad hopes for $173K robot

By Brittany Wallman

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If a weapon of mass destruction were unleashed on Fort Lauderdale, Andros would be ready. A small bomb? Call him in. Andros can climb hills, jump small ditches and shoot a shotgun. But he costs as much as a Bentley.

Andros F6A is a $173,000 robot that Fort Lauderdale's police bomb squad hopes to own.

City commissioners will vote on the high-tech, high-ticket item in September. A vote Tuesday night was postponed, when the city auditor (whose salary is about the same as the Andros purchase price) pulled the item to ask more questions.

Taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for Andros's purchase. The Police Department would reach for funds from confiscated drugs and drug-related assets from participation in a task force with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Our other one kept malfunctioning," Fort Lauderdale Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa said about their current robot. The department is using a robot borrowed from the city of Miami, and needs a new one to "handle the ever increasing threats posed to the city of Fort Lauderdale," a city memo says.

Those threats may be "chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive," according to the city documents explaining the purchase. But police officials said the current robot is technologically out of date, and can't handle all of the latest threats.

The city's proximity to airports and seaport make this purchase important, city officials say. Andros can detect chemicals and radiation, can pull a 175-pound person, reach into overhead airplane compartments or across airplane seats, make a 45-degree climb, jump a 2-foot ditch, and hold and shoot a shotgun. All by remote control.

The Broward Sheriff's Office has the 2000 version of Andros, so it's not as modern, according to Mike Jachles, agency spokesman. BSO patrols Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, but Fort Lauderdale's bomb squad is part of the equation also.

"They are a backup to our bomb squad, and vice versa," he said.

Copyright 2009 Sun-Sentinel

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