The University of Greenwich joined forces with Kent-based mechanical engineering company NIC Instruments on a knowledge transfer partnership to design and manufacture a bomb disposal robot for use by security forces, including the British Army.

NIC Instruments specialises in the design and manufacture of security search and Explosive Ordnance Disposal equipment. The collaborative aim was to develop a lightweight, remote-operated vehicle, or robot, that could be controlled by a wireless device, and then develop a range of enhancements to the basic unit.

The resulting robot is much lighter than traditional  units. Measuring just 72cm by 35cm and weighing 48kg, it is easier to transport and deploy in the field. It has on-board cameras, which relay images back to the operator, and is able to climb stairs, open doors, and carry and manipulate delicate items. It moves at speeds of up to eight miles per hour and can detect nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The knowledge transferred during the partnership provided an opportunity for NIC Instruments to develop and continue to support its lightweight, remote-operated vehicle product range, as well as providing the possibility of diversifying into other electro-mechanical products with a high added value.
As an existing supplier to a range of defence forces, the company was able to improve its competiveness and increase sales to such customers through this development of its product range, including ongoing service contracts and accessories.

After the success of the initial partnership, a second knowledge transfer partnership project was commissioned, focusing on the development of innovative control software to add ‘smart features’ to provide semi-automated and automated functionality.

Steve Wisbey, Managing Director of NIC Instruments, said: “The partnership with the University of Greenwich allowed us to expand our technology base considerably in a highly compressed timescale. We are now exploring ways of extending our partnership, as other security projects between us are already under way.”