Fort Hood: ‘Bomb-sniffing’ robot tested

(Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) In 2019, the Army is celebrating 50 years of operational testing, and it's checking to see if new equipment can help protect soldiers in the real world.

A robot could be Fort Hood's newest recruit.

The Man-Transportable Robotic System or MTRS was put to the test Thursday.

"The intent is to use the robot so that we don't have to put a soldier in a bomb suit to find the hazard," says military test plans analyst Ed Jagodzinski.

"They can send this robot in to provide them information visually and also any detectors -whether they be hazardous vapor detectors or hazardous chemicals. You don't have to send a person into that environment."

MTRS can be used overseas or close to home to keep soldiers from entering dangerous situations.

It's controlled from a tank where its team can wait safely nearby.

"[It's] based off a video game controller like Xbox or PlayStation," says Robert Brizzi, the EOD platoon sergeant.

"It has similar ergonomics when it comes to that, so for our younger generation, it is pretty easy to use a robot platform."

But to join the ranks, the robot recruit has to pass a series of tests, and it's got an audience- contractors that helped make the test possible.

"We tend to see stuff on paper," says contract specialist Tiffany Alexander. "But to actually come out and see it come to life, you can actually see where your efforts are going."

MTRS was just a prototype a couple of years ago, and it is still getting a feel for the job it's designed for.

An alarm is sounded as a wire is tripped during its entrance into the test building.

"It had a few issues," says Brizzi. "The robot did not see the trip line, so in a real-world situation, the robot would have been blown up."

The technology does have its limitations; to finish the mission, a soldier straps on a bomb suit and heads in.

"They will go back, collect new data analysis, and see if there's anything else they can do to alter or change anything with the robot and determine whether this is a good candidate for a new duty robot across all four services," Brizzi says.

MTRS was able to gather some information before it got tripped up on it' mission, and since this was just a practice round, the robot will live to test another day.

As to whether it could one day assist with calls off-post, Fort Hood officials say they are still working to figure that out.