Nebraska state patrol bomb squad gets new robot

By Paul Hammel
Omaha World Herald (Nebraska)

State officials Friday unveiled the first of a trio of remote-control robots that will form the first line of defense in the event of a bomb attack on Nebraska.

Mark V, an 800-pound robot the size of a riding lawn mower, rolled out of a garage and opened up a laptop computer bag with an olive-green, telescoping arm for reporters.

The $ 158,000 machine, to be used by the Nebraska State Patrol Bomb Squad, will be joined by two smaller robots in June.

One will be delivered to the Omaha Police Department''s bomb unit and the other, a mini-version, to the Lincoln Fire Department.

The State Patrol''s robot is fitted with two, high-pressure water pistols, which are used to break bombs apart.

It also has four video cameras, microphones, several lights and the telescoping arm, which reached 8 feet into the air Friday. It can be fitted with a shotgun. Controlled via a fiber-optic line, it has a range of 2,500 feet and can operate on battery power for about three hours.

Sgt. Rod Getting, who heads the bomb team, said that besides bomb work, the Mark V can be used in hostage situations to deliver a telephone and can be fitted with detection equipment to sniff out the dangers at a chemical spill.

All three robot purchases would not have been possible, officials said, without federal homeland security funds.

"The number one threat is bombings, explosives - look at what happened in Spain," said Lt. Tim Conahan of the Omaha Police Department''s emergency response unit. "So the bomb squads will be at the front lines."

And, in the sometimes rival-filled world of law enforcement, the state''s bomb teams will be working together.

The teams with Omaha, Lincoln and the State Patrol have been training together, and decided to buy three different robots - a mini, medium and large version - to improve the state''s capabilities. All three were built by REMOTEC of Knoxville, Tenn.

"One team, one fight we call it," said Conahan. "We''ve really come together as a group."

Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman, who heads the state''s homeland security efforts, said that has typified the state''s response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"Firefighters and all emergency management personnel have been brought together by this because it takes a team effort," Heineman said.

Getting said the State Patrol chose the largest robot because of its rural mission. The Mark V is fitted with tires or tanklike tracks, which allows it to slog down muddy roads or up stairways.

Omaha has a smaller version that can maneuver down airplane aisles and other tight spots.

Previously, there was only one bomb-squad robot in the state - a 30-year-old model used by Omaha police.

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