Max Ortiz / The Detroit
Muench, a researcher at the Tank Command in Warren,
demonstrates the robot at the 2002 Society of Automotive
Engineers World Congress in Cobo Center. It is 4 inches tall
and shaped like a bathroom scale.
helps fight terrorism
off device that detects car bombs
Anita Lienert / Special to the Detroit
-- Automotive engineers are getting ready to fight terrorism with
a tiny robot that can detect car bombs and will eventually be able
to sniff out anthrax and radioactive material.
David J. Gorsich, a senior research
scientist with the Army Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command in
Warren, demonstrated the robot, nicknamed "Odis," at the 2002
Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress on Monday. Odis
stands for omni-directional inspection system.
The mobile robot is not even four inches
tall and is shaped like an over-sized bathroom scale. It has four
small computers onboard and a high-powered light.
An operator using wireless technology, which
includes a joystick and a TV monitor, maneuvers Odis from a
distance, sliding it underneath a vehicle to check for bombs in
Odis can be programed to
sound a warning bell if it finds anything suspicious.
Engineers demonstrated Odis on a camouflage
Humvee on the show floor. The little robot found a suspicious box
wrapped in a rag hidden under the military vehicle's transaxle.
Gorsich, the civilian director of the Warren
facility's robotics lab, said security personnel around the U.S.
currently are limited to using a primitive car-bomb detection
system that consists of little more than a mirror on the end of a
"It's really easy to conceal
things in an automobile," Gorsich said. "It's complicated under
there, it's dark and you have to know what you're looking for.
"We envision Odis being put to use by
customs agents at the border and by airport parking lot security
The robot prototype costs
$10,000, but Gorsich said the price would come down once mass
production begins in the next year or so. The Army developed Odis
in a partnership with Utah State University.The partners are now
working on a couple of Odis spinoffs.
such robot would be able to traverse rubble-strewn landscapes,
such as the one at Ground Zero in New York City or areas hit by
Another could be programed to
swab suspicious areas inside of vehicles or buildings to check for
anthrax or other biological or radioactive material.
And Odis could be programed to read license
plates and report information back to law-enforcement officials.
Gorsich said the Army has been testing Odis
at the guard shack at the entrance to its Warren site.
"The guards love it," he said. "They can
stay in a heated building to inspect a car. Who could ask for
You can reach Anita Lienert by e-mail at mailto:ConseEye@aol.com