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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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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:
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/1...

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:
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/mits-smart-...


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