All military and civil defence bomb disposal robots owe their legacy to the grandfather of them all, the Wheelbarrow.

In its original incarnation, the Wheelbarrow was designed for the British Army by Lieutenant-Commander Peter Miller in 1972 to address the terrorist bomb threat in Northern Ireland. Developed from a prototype made from a wheelbarrow and a lawnmower, the robot carried out bomb disposal by remote control at a stand-off distance.

The Wheelbarrow is still in production, now made by Northrop Grumman’s Remotec division, which is the sole supplier to the UK Ministry of Defence for this size of robot. The latest version, Wheelbarrow Mk9, was launched in 2010 with a range of upgrades. These include digital communications for improved quality and greater security, plus an enhanced man-machine interface enabling it to be controlled via touch-screen facility and joystick, or a wireless hand controller for local remote control.

Capable of climbing a 45-degree stairway, it has a modular telescopic arm with seven-degrees of freedom and a maximum reach of more than 6m, can reach a speed of 5km / hour and lift 150kg.

On its launch, Kevin Rooney, managing director Unmanned Ground Vehicles for Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector in Europe, said: “This latest design of our well proven Wheelbarrow vehicle combines greater speed, mobility, exceptional payload and reach capabilities with the latest control, communications and camera specifications to offer unsurpassed performance.”


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