|Maysam Saleh displays Woody the Robot on Monday. The sophisticated robot will be used by the Edmonton Police Service and the RCMP for tactical surveillance missions. (CANDICE WARD/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON -- A sophisticated robot designed by NAIT researchers could soon be in the
hands of city police for use at hostage and other high-risk situations.
Last fall, police asked NAIT’s electronics engineering department to design
an improved version of the aging robots they currently use, said Sgt. Grant
Jongejan, of the Edmonton Police Service disaster emergency operations and
Since September, a six-member team at the college have worked to build a
powerful all-wheel-drive gadget able to push open doors, easily roll over
curbs and cruise 16 km/h.
Outfitted with a mast-mounted camera capable of
extending more than three-metres high, the robot can provide eyes at
potentially hazardous situations for police and fire crews.
“When it’s going full speed it’s scary,” said Mark Archibald, chair of
electronics engineering, as he manoeuvred the 100-pound robot nicknamed
Woody down NAIT’s halls on Monday.
Operated by a video game controller, the electric robot creates quite a
stir among staff and students as it roars up and down the hallways, spinning
quickly around in circles.
City police have three robots - ranging in price from $79,000 to $350,000
each - used more than a dozen times a year for everything from hazardous
spills to hostage takings, said Jongejan.
But the big perk about NAIT’s gizmo is the small price tag. Parts were just
$10,000 and if manufactured, the robot would cost much less and be more
effective than the current robots used, Archibald said.
The team estimates with some more tweaking Woody could be ready in one to
RCMP and city police stopped by the college last week to test out the robot
and are already excited.
“Our robot fleet is not the newest and brightest. Definitely that one is
very nimble and speedy,” Jongejan said.
Down the road, Jongejan said he hopes the robot will be accessible to small
police and fire detachments with limited budgets.
“I always wondered how I was going to be helping people once I graduated and
now this question has been answered,” said Maysam Saleh, project research
assistant and electronics engineering technology graduate.
“I’ll definitely be helping people.”