Bomb squads are commonly depicted as operating with surgical precision as they cautiously clip the correct-colored wire to disarm a threat. While this may sometimes be the case in reality, there are certain situations that call for a more direct approach.
The Los Angeles Police Department's Bomb Assessment Tactical Counter Assault Tool, or BatCat, is a 39,000 pound commercial-grade telehandler--basically a giant forklift with a telescoping arm. The BatCat's arm is rated at about 12,000 pounds of lift and features a claw-like attachment that can extend about 52 feet. Criminals can neither run nor hide from the grip of this massive machine, capable of lifting cars and razing buildings.
While its sheer strength should be enough to strike fear into the heart of any bad guy, what makes the BatCat truly unique is its remote operation.
"In today's day and age, we try to do as much as possible robotically. We can always replace this robot--we can always replace this BatCat. You can't put a price on human life," said Rich Nagatoshi of the LAPD Bomb Squad. "It was primarily designed for bomb squad applications. Anything that we do not want to send a bomb technician--a human operator--down range, we want to do remotely."
In order to convert the BatCat to remote operation, Nagatoshi and his team employed the services of ASI
, a robotics company that specializes in autonomous solutions.
"We've automated everything from golf carts to 400 ton mining trucks, and then we've also built our own range of small robots," said ASI Sales Manager Eric Bud. ASI's autonomous systems are even being used by the Ford Motor Company
to assist in strenuous testing of new vehicles.
Brawn And Brains
While the burly BatCat is certainly strong, it may actually be more agile than it first appears. "It may look huge and it may look like it's very powerful, which it is, but BatCat is actually designed to be very methodical and very precise," said Nagatoshi.
It's one of a kind as well.
"Almost every bomb squad has some kind of robotic platform," admits Nagatoshi, but there are no other police departments across the country using the BatCat.
Watch the BatCat toss around a car, lift a full-size van and demolish a warehouse in the video below.