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Army shows more than one way to look under a car

TARDEC to showcase autonomous robotic systems designed to perform under-vehicle inspections for explosive weapons, while keeping soldiers out of harm's way.

Manning security checkpoints is hazardous duty, but vehicles still must be checked. So the U.S. Army is helping develop products that will allow soldiers to do their job, preferably from a distance.

Researchers and scientists at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (aka TARDEC) have focused on semi-autonomous robotic systems capable of remotely inspecting a vehicle's undercarriage for explosives or roam the line looking for suspicious activity.

TARDEC will showcase a couple of its favorite autonomous robotic systems this week at the Michigan Security Network Market Leadership Conference. Both units were developed for military and homeland security applications, such as airport and seaport inspections and hazardous substance detection. But nothing says you can't deploy them at your next block party.

Here's a sneak peek.

The ODIS performs under-vehicle inspections to detect explosives, contraband, and radiological, chemical, and biological threats. It was developed in partnership with the DOD Joint Robotics Office, Utah State University, and Kuchera Defense Systems. Kuchera Defense Systems

The SpectorRobotic System, developed by TARDEC in conjunction with Autonomous Solutions, is an omnidirectional platform designed to perform under-vehicle visual inspections for weapons, explosives, or other contraband, while keeping inspectors out of harm's way. It's currently being manufactured for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Autonomous Solutions

The ODIS system was used to screen vehicles for bombs and other threats by the U.S. Secret Service at President Barack Obama's inauguration last January. TARDEC photo by John Vala

"Autonomous robotic systems like the Spector and ODIS offer military and civilian personnel a modular, mobile, low-cost, safe alternative to conventional inspection and patrol operations," said David J. Thomas, TARDEC Associate Director of Intelligent Ground Systems. "These devices can and do save lives while providing security representatives with the most advanced detection and inspection technologies available in the ground systems arena."