January 5, 2016

Remote-controlled robot inspects suitcase bombs

© Photo: North Rhine-Westphalia State Office of Criminal Investigation
Police emergency personnel defuse a suitcase bomb.

(January 5, 2015)  Abandoned items of luggage are frequently found at airports and train stations. This is a case for the emergency services, who have to assume that these items might contain bombs. They must assess the potential threat quickly, avert any possible danger, and preserve evidence for criminal proceedings. In the future, police will have the support of a remote-controlled sensor system as they go about their duties. Fraunhofer researchers are developing this sensor suite in cooperation with industry partners and criminal investigation authorities.

© Photo: German Federal Armed Forces / Bienert
Inspecting a suspicious vest for explosives.

Anyone who forgets their luggage in public places, airports or train stations will spark off a large-scale police operation. Time and again, suitcases, bags or backpacks left lying around unsupervised cause a bomb alert. Admittedly, most abandoned luggage items turn out to be harmless. But in the first instance the emergency services have to proceed on the assumption of possible danger and check whether they are dealing with an improvised explosive device (IED) that might blow up at any time. This involves getting up close to the luggage to inspect it. A system that makes it possible to assess the danger of the situation quickly – and also records 3D images of the contents and shape of the luggage as well as of the surrounding area – would make the specialists’ work considerably easier, speed up the reconnaissance process, and minimize the risk for the emergency personnel. 

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