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Insurgents are becoming more creative when designing IEDs  (Source: AP)

  (Source: Columbia Pictures)
A simple RC truck with a wireless camera helped save US lives in Afghanistan

A bit of luck and a gift from a serviceman's family member helped save six U.S. service members currently deployed in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden used a basic RC truck with an attached wireless video camera able to scout ahead while out on patrol.  After loaning the truck to a different unit, the little RC vehicle set off a 500-lb. IED blast triggered by a hidden trip wire.

Since he first received the device in 2007, it helped locate multiple suspected IEDs designed to cause as much devastation as possible.  Staff Sgt. Fessenden's brother and shop friend plan to try and create a new truck that can be shipped for use in Afghanistan.

It may sound silly that a small RC toy truck is being used to detect IEDs, but troops on the ground are willing to accept any help they can.  Techniques have ranged from trained dogs to sniff out IEDs to better intelligence from locals that run the risk of repercussion from the Taliban.  

The U.S. Air Force continually uses high-resolution cameras to try and locate IEDs, while ground troops use metal detectors and similar devices to find IEDs.  Growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has also helped identify insurgents planting roadside bombs, along with pinpoint precision strikes to destroy the munitions.

Insurgents routinely use IED attacks -- including booby-trapped items and bodies -- before sometimes launching small-arms attacks on soldiers.  

Unfortunately, soldier amputations from Afghan IED attacks have dramatically increased as soldiers dismount armored vehicles to carry out foot patrols.  

Using cell phones, devices with on-off switches, or connecting wires to set off IEDs, insurgents are very familiar with U.S. patrol tactics -- an important lesson to military officers trying to stifle the catastrophic damage from IEDs.

U.S. lawmakers and Pakistan are already testing the boundaries of a weary relationship with growing concern that about 84 percent of ammonium nitrate used in IEDs comes from two Pakistani plants.  

Questions related to IED attacks should remain a major topic as the number of killed and wounded by these sometimes sophisticated devices continues to increase.

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R/D truck
By delphinus100 on 8/6/2011 11:29:49 PM , Rating: 3
It may sound silly that a small RC toy truck is being used to detect IEDs, but troops on the ground are willing to accept any help they can.

Cool. Easily replaced, already in mass production...

RE: R/D truck
By Flunk on 8/7/2011 12:47:12 AM , Rating: 1
Agreed, this is a fantastic solution and it shows the type of thinking they need more of in the military. We need more people asking, how can we do this for a reasonable price.

RE: R/D truck
By BugblatterIII on 8/7/2011 8:53:44 AM , Rating: 3
Sadly it won't work; the same principle applies as in this video:

Oh you want a military toy r/c truck?

RE: R/D truck
By Uncle on 8/7/2011 12:12:13 PM , Rating: 2
Just keep buying them from Radio Shack at $125.00. If an Army supplier gets involved those same trucks will get flipped for $12,500.99 a pop.

RE: R/D truck
By augiem on 8/7/2011 2:09:28 PM , Rating: 1
Wireless communication encryption, better durability, longer range communications, more types of sensors... there are plenty of reasons to spend more than $59 on a device like this for the military.

RE: R/D truck
By EricMartello on 8/7/2011 6:27:21 PM , Rating: 3
No, it's not really necessary to spend more than $50-$100 per unit if the main use is to trip IEDs. A wireless camera attached to the R/C truck is more than sufficient. Even a cheap unit will have decent range - enough to keep the operator at a safe distance.

Furthermore, they could move to "hobby grade" R/C which lets them reuse the radio with multiple toys, so they would only need to replace the R/C car itself and not the entire "kit".

Also, let's not forget that there are also cheap R/C toy aircraft now that are very easy to control which could be used to scout inside of buildings and other hard-to-reach places. Imaging using a cheap $100 toy helicopter to check rooftops in order to avert an ambush.

RE: R/D truck
By augiem on 8/7/2011 9:42:21 PM , Rating: 1
Toy is the keyword. What's to stop the enemy from getting equipment that can also read the signals and see exactly what the soldiers are seeing? (And potentially see the troops themselves through other toys they haven't launched yet or are using for other purposes.) Or even control it/interfere with its communications, etc. Hacking a cell phone or wifi network isn't hard. I can't believe a system designed as a toy with no security at all would be any harder.

There are too many things about a toy that can fall short because it was not designed with the needs of soldiers in mind. I'm not saying the device should be $15,000, but I am saying thinking you should deploy an off the shelf toy for widespread military use ignores a lot of important factors.

RE: R/D truck
By jabber on 8/7/2011 9:51:43 PM , Rating: 3
Problem is getting it through mil-spec and military procurement will take far too long and cost a fortune.

If the $50 dollar truck does the job and is saving lives now then go for it. You cant always wait for the top brass to get stuff out there.

Sometimes cheap just works. Silly String is another cheap device they use for checking for tripwires in a room.

It's all good stuff. The best that could happen is a toy company produces a stripped down version maybe just with the chassis and some velcro loops on the top.

The thing is going to get destroyed so no point having a $1000-$5000 verison.

As for insurgents tapping in, what are they going to do? Send the harmless truck the other way? That will tip the guys off straight away. All they will (maybe) see is the truck rumbling along the ground. You just switch the camera off the rest of the time.

Not hard.

RE: R/D truck
By th3pwn3r on 8/8/2011 12:56:05 PM , Rating: 2
the owner of the Everything Hobby shop in Rochester, rigged it with a wireless video camera and shipped it to him.

The cheapest hobby level R/Cs I've seen will cost $100-$150 in "Ready To Run" trim. Anyhow,any decent R/C vehicle will run nearly double that amount. The toys you get at Toys R Us certainly won't have 1/4 mile range like hobby level "toys" do. Regardless of all that, the cost of a human life is invaluable so securing a deal with one of the big names in R/C(Traxxas, Losi, HPI) wouldn't be a bad idea.

RE: R/D truck
By augiem on 8/8/2011 3:43:51 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that they could use the toy version as a short term solution, but people on this thread are advocating cost cutting by making this standard practice. Sure, it's cheap. But there will be disadvantages versus a system designed for this purpose even if you or I cannot think of them. (For example my comment about more and better sensors on the robot). How about the possibility of actually dropping some explosive that can set off the bomb 100% of the time instead of hoping the toy truck can reach the tripwire or is heavy enough to set it off? Adding some thermal sensors, radar, or other devices wouldn't have to cost $15,000 and take 20 years of development. It MAY snowball into that, but it wouldn't HAVE to. A student at MIT could probably whip out a prototype in a few months.

It MAY get destroyed, but it doesn't HAVE to. Like I mentioned, it could carry some explosive device to the bomb to detonate it. I know robots like this already exist. Perhaps they could be simplified to save cost, I don't know. But the RC truck is not as robust a tool as it could be. Yes, it will save lives because they can get loads of them now. That's great! Do it! But commenters here seem to feel that an RC toy would be a viable long-term tool for finding/disposing of road-side bombs. It's a cheap way, yes, but is it the best way? Again, I'm not saying throw a bag of money at it. I'm saying at least TRY to design something with the specific needs in mind.

As for insurgents tapping in: They will know where the soldiers are patrolling. This is intel they can use. Between the wireless camera data and the control signal, they can gather some information. Not great, but its still a risk IMO. And you can't just leave the camera off until you find a bomb. You're going to be monitoring the camera from the moment you put the truck on the ground to launch it. That is IN the very location of the patrol.

RE: R/D truck
By cbf on 8/8/2011 8:53:29 PM , Rating: 2
Not encrypting your RPV's drone could be, and likely has been, deadly:

I agree with augiem. A couple of MIT students could update the electronics package in a month. In fact, you could probably give the contract to the MIT Aerospace Controls Laboratory tomorrow:

RE: R/D truck
By EricMartello on 8/7/2011 11:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Because for this purpose none of that matters. They're using the toys to detonate bombs and the video camera is merely to allow someone to drive it from far away. Who cares if they jam the signal? It wouldn't be worth the effort because this is nothing like a predator drone or something that actually has "sensitive" hardware onboard.

As for them seeing the video feed...uhhh...the enemy knows where they planted the bomb so it wont reveal anything "secret" to them, and since neither the toy nor the camera can be turned on remotely they cannot be be used by the enemy for spying on unsuspecting soldiers.

Last I checked nothing comes without drawbacks, but this is a simple solution whose benefits outweigh any of its drawbacks.

RE: R/D truck
By augiem on 8/8/2011 3:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
They will know exactly where the patrols are patrolling. That is a danger to the troops. They cannot only turn the camera on when they find a bomb because they don't know where the bomb will be. Therefore, between the camera and the source of the unsecured signal, there is intel there.

RE: R/D truck
By jabber on 8/8/2011 6:56:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yes of dusty ground from 5 inches up.


RE: R/D truck
By augiem on 8/8/2011 7:01:05 PM , Rating: 2
Nevermind. Nobody here has any imagination. Typical.

RE: R/D truck
By jabber on 8/9/2011 5:18:50 AM , Rating: 2
Some have a little too much, lol.

RE: R/D truck
By DarkUltra on 8/8/2011 2:52:23 AM , Rating: 2
I'd thought the NATO and US military would find a good counter to the EIDs back when they were initially encountered! Or at least have the troops always be inside a well armored vehicle on patrols and avoid patrolling places where they can't use said vehicle. If this toy can counter 10% of every currently fatal EID encounter, it would save a lot of lives!

The poor and desperate are attracted to religion, it is important to make the day to day life of the average Afghan person better. Infrastructure and education comes to mind.

RE: R/D truck
By Calin on 8/8/2011 3:04:44 AM , Rating: 2
They found counters to the IEDs, and the insurgents found better IEDs.

RE: R/D truck
By danjw1 on 8/8/2011 11:00:00 AM , Rating: 2
Much of the areas in Afghanistan that need to be patrolled are not navigable by vehicles. Particularly on the boarder with Pakistan.

RE: R/D truck
By danjw1 on 8/8/2011 11:49:11 AM , Rating: 2
Particularly on the boarder with Pakistan.

Sorry about that it was a quick reply, it should be border, obviously.

RE: R/D truck
By th3pwn3r on 8/8/2011 1:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
YOU MUST preview before you can post is for a reason :D

RE: R/D truck
By Lee Carhoff on 8/9/2011 6:19:52 PM , Rating: 2
About 5 years ago after seeing so many soldiers killed from IED's I had one of those aha moments while locking up my kids John Deer truck toy. The ones you get at wal-mart. If mounted 3 cameras one that sees heat, night vision, and day time. All electronics give off heat so you could see if the ground had spots. In the back would be a device that would send out a signal burst on all frequencies. With a few modifications such as the tires and the remote it would have cost about $200 - $300. So I contacted an engineer and a scientist from a wellconstruction known university to see if this would work. They suggested I contact the DOD right away and tell them my idea. So I did, they expanded that even though it would work and was a good idea that they had already spent millions on a company that was to engineer a device that would block all signals from triggering. I told them I'm not looking for a handout or recognition just use the idea till your could be implemented. They said that is not how things are done.

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