NC police dept sees benefits of robotics

Robotic units becoming more common in defusing dangerous situations

By Brian Freskos
Star News Online

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Around 1 a.m., after about five hours of tense strategizing and what-if questions, the police dispatched "Sheila," a blue robot that rides on wheels and tracks and used her to make contact with Clay McArthur, a 38-year-old wanted on suspicion of robbing a Wilmington-area bank with a rifle earlier that same day in late September.

The $187,000 piece of machinery, purchased through federal grant monies, is equipped with four cameras that can tilt, pan and zoom. Her single long arm and claw are so nimble that the robot can open cupboards, pick up suitcases and, if the occasion calls for it, drag a wounded police officer out of harm's way.

And officials later credited Sheila with helping bring the McArthur situation to a peaceful conclusion, an end that came without police breaking down the door. After the window crashed, McArthur came outside and was taken into custody.

Sheila, an Andros F6 designed and manufactured by the Tennessee-based company Remotec, is the same robot featured in the movie "The Hurt Locker," where members of an Army bomb squad unit find and disarm roadside explosives in the sand-swept neighborhoods of Iraq - not dissimilar to how police often employ the robot in the United States.

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