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US Air Force to Equip Anti-Explosive Robots With Infrared Sensors

The US Air Force is developing an infrared sensing prototype to enhance its robotic counter-improvised explosive device systems.

The resulting technology will be integrated into unmanned ground vehicles used by explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel to decrease bomb risks.

Once completed, the component is expected to boost the performance of counter-IED robots while ensuring “precision and safety” for operating teams.

“Precision is everything for an EOD technician because there is no margin for error,” 99th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD Leader Tech Sgt. Daniel Trombone stated.

“It is critical that they solve as many problems as possible with their robot before directly exposing themselves to the danger.”

Mitigating ‘Unnecessary Risks’

The US Air Force wrote that current anti-explosive robots have no equipment to calculate the depth of an environment. They depend on attached two-dimensional cameras and associated displays to complete missions.

The inability of drones to process three-dimensional data causes “unnecessary risks” for EOD teams and civilian bomb squads, the agency said.

To address this concern, the service’s upcoming technology will combine infrared sensors and LED lights for enhanced spatial awareness, enabling operators to pilot drones more effectively through complex terrain.

Trombone added that the platform is cost-effective compared to existing optical solutions, such as stereoscopic cameras that are “more expensive, susceptible to jamming, and more complicated to repair in the field.”

An EOD robot remotely operated by members of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, performs diagnostics on a simulated pipe bomb during an exercise here June 6. The robot is used by 5th CES EOD personnel to recon areas not cleared for human entry and disarming potential explosive devices. Exercises like these are vital training tools used throughout the year to ensure wing personnel are trained to provide safe, secure, effective conventional and nuclear operations as mandated by Air Force Global Strike Command.
An explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) drone performs diagnostics on a simulated pipe bomb. Photo: Airman 1st Class Kristoffer Kaubisch/US Air Force

Tech Connect Program

The effort, now in its prototyping phase, is being facilitated by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and its innovation arm AFWERX.

It was organized under the Air and Space Force Tech Connect, a US Department of Defense program fostering industrial and academic collaboration to modernize and fill gaps in tactical systems supporting America’s national defense strategy.

“Most of us don’t realize how impactful Tech Connect is,” AFRL Sensors Directorate Senior Electronics Engineer Dr. Mohammad Imran Vakil said.

“[We] can directly have a conversation with engineers and scientists to evaluate if their technology will be a good fit for our needs.”

The project’s next phase will refine the prototype using more advanced electronics, focusing on making the system smaller, more accurate, and suited for long-term manufacturing.

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