By Tonya Garner: CNJ Staff Writer
Like a scene from a science fiction movie, a robot rolled into the Hilltop Plaza branch of the New Mexico Bank & Trust on Friday.
The robot — the REMOTECH F6 Remote Control Transport, or RCT — was brought onto the bank robbery scene to determine if the suspicious package left behind by the suspect was a threat to the area.
Camouflage-clad airmen from Cannon Air Force Base’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team operated the robot from a large black truck in the Hilltop Plaza parking lot.
The RCT is used by the Air Force for reconnaissance of suspicious devices, according to Chief of Cannon Public Affairs Lt. James Nichols.
Clovis Police spokesman Lt. James Schoeffel said police utilize Cannon’s EOD expertise any time there is a possible explosive device. “If it (RCT) wasn’t at Cannon,” Schoeffel said, “then we would have to call the state police, which would take time.”
According to Nichols, the robot completed its assigned mission successfully by determining the suspicious package was not an explosive device. The robot utilized visual recording equipment and hand-powered tools.
The technologically advanced robot is equipped with two-way audio and video communication that enables military personnel or law enforcement to assess a dangerous situation from a safe distance.
If necessary, the robot has the ability to remove a device found to be safe or destroy a device determined to be explosive.
Nichols said the F6 RCT robots cost about $175,000 each with all accessories and weigh about 485 pounds. Used by the Air Force in the field for about two to three years, he said they are the same robots commonly used in Iraq against terrorist devices.
According to www.army-technology.com, there are more than 1,400 REMOTECH robots used worldwide by military and law-enforcement agencies.