Winning without fighting with the Pointman tactical robot

Weighing in at just under 18 pounds, the little four-by-four can boogie downrange to target at about five miles per hour

By Doug Wyllie
C1 Staff

At the NTOA Annual Convention in Seattle this week, I spent some time getting to know more about the Pointman tactical robot. The Pointman is, in essence, a simple, four-wheel drive, mini-vehicle that a SWAT team can throw into a building to go and find trouble so you know where it is.

“You can get it out and running in about a minute’s time," explained Alex Kaufman, a company spokesman for ARA Robotics, makers of the Pointman,  “It climbs stairs and it does lay flat so you can go underneath a vehicle as well. It’s extremely easy to drive — it takes very little training.”

Weighing in at just under 18 pounds, the little four-by-four can boogie downrange to target at about 5 miles per hour. Further, it can maneuver to a target up to 800 feet away over open terrain, and about 400 feet away when transmitting signal through walls and maneuvering within an indoor target.

Four Wheels and “Proprietary EHP”
For two simple reasons, it’s almost impossible to get the Pointmant stuck. The first element is the fact that its flipping motion quickly and efficiently turns the vehicle upside down — there is neither a top nor a bottom to the unit.

The second reason is because, with wheels, it does not have the same issues as some tracked vehicles might have when traversing a room strewn with clothing or other such stuff, which can get gummed up in the works.

Nothing is absolutely fool proof, and I would bet you could find a way to wrap a bunch of twine around an axle, but comparatively speaking, the stuck-in-a-ball-of-laundry issue is one you probably don't have to worry about with the Pointman.

Another element which stands out is that there are very few elements to the Pointman. It’s elegant in that there are no added bells and whistles: The abovementioned four wheels, two cameras, one IR illuminator, and one rotating lever.

Kaufman was understandably circumspect when I asked him what the outer shell is made of. “We call it extremely hard plastic,” he said.

“Oh, of course,” I replied with a chuckle. “Proprietary EHP.”

In all seriousness, the components are packed inside so tightly that nothing moves when it’s tossed through a window or into a building door.

To call this little robot “durable” is to be putting things mildly.

Tested By Many, Maybe Even You
There are units deployed in Seattle — host city of the NTOA — as well as in nearby Tacoma, and Vancouver, Washington.

Units have been deployed by dozens of other municipalities across the United States, such as Los Angeles, Boston, Oklahoma City.

ARA Robotics customers also include federal outfits like FBI, and military services such as USMC.

“Anybody who wants pricing or wants to request a trial can do so through our website or through our listing on Police1. We send out trail units without a Sheppard, so folks can try it out for a week, with their team, with their government agency. This way, whoever needs to see it can do so.”

Winning Without Fighting
Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

As true today as it was in the 6th Century BCE, robotics such as the Pointman can give SWAT teams the tactical intelligence needed to coerce a barricaded suspect that the only possible alternative for them is to surrender their position without further incident.

There are a fair number of high-quality robots on the market for SWAT deployment and EOD missions — Robotex, Recon Robotics, and iRobot to name just three — but as Kaufman and I spoke, the point about the Pointman which struck me is that in many tactical situations, simple can be superior.

For further information about the Pointman, go to www.ara-robotics-com.

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