Bomb squad's hi-tech robot fleet is upgraded

Smaller, more sophisticated remote-control devices come with a laser gun for defusing explosives and can detect poisonous gases.

Abu Dhabi's bomb squad is getting leaner, more agile and more hi-tech as a new fleet of five remote-control robots, smaller and more sophisticated than the models currently in use, come into service in about three months.

The robots, which cost a total of Dh9.6 million (US$2.6m), will be able to deactivate explosives and detect poisonous gases while the people controlling them are as far as one kilometre away. A deal to purchase the devices from the German company Telerob was announced yesterday during the International Security National Resilience Exhibition and Conference. The devices will arrive in Abu Dhabi in a week and will be ready to use by summer, said Col Humaid al Afreet, the manager of the directorate of ordinance and explosives for Abu Dhabi Police.

The devices, known in technical jargon as "explosive ordinance disposals", can be fitted with different tools, weapons and sensors, including a laser that can de-activate a bomb. Christian Herbst, the director of sales and marketing at Telerob, said: " "The idea behind this device is to keep people as far as possible from dangerous objects. "If there is a suspicious bag in a locker, for example, instead of the guard himself checking if there is a bomb inside while risking his life, he can use the robot to do that,"

The device is operated by a gadget that looks like a small laptop computer, with joysticks to control movement and a screen that displays messages and images. The new robots are smaller than the previous model, and can operate in smaller spaces, Mr Herbst said. "They can also be used by firefighters," he said. "If they suspect there is poisonous gas in a room, the robot can be fitted with sensors and be sent inside the room."

Col al Afreet said the "counter-terrorism" devices, which are easy to transport, would be used in areas that require high security, such as Abu Dhabi and Al Ain airports and shopping malls. "The device proved handy in massive events such as Formula 1 and the Club World Cup," he said. Col al Afreet declined to specify the current number of robots available to the police. Also yesterday, the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA) announced a Dh167m deal to provide training for its guards.

CNIA soldiers already receive comprehensive training at the authority's institute, which was opened last year. The new courses will teach them specialised skills such as dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and handling a wider range of weapons. Staff Col Ishaq al Beshir, the director of operations at the CNIA, said soldiers would learn advanced rapid reaction force training, weapons handling and tactics as part of a Dh40m deal with Mike Stapleton Associates, in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Another deal worth Dh85m was signed with Camber Corporation and Power Training to provide instruction in shooting, crowd control, unarmed self-defence, driving and first-aid. Both courses will take place at the CNIA institute. A third contract for maritime training was signed with the Global Maritime and Transportation School-US Merchant Marine Academy, at a cost of Dh42m. Guards will be taught to operate small craft, along with basic seamanship, survival at sea, search and rescue and maritime security.

CNIA will also inaugurate its coastguard school later this month, Col al Beshir said.