The United States’ nuclear test site located in Nevada has acquired a remote controlled robot to improve security patrols at remote portions of the facility, and the agency overseeing security at the test site says it plans to acquire two more robots.
In a written statement, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) says the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)—formerly known as the Nevada Test Site—has purchased the first of three “Mobile Detection Assessment Response System” (MDARS) robots to improve security patrols at remote portions of the NNSS.
Produced by General Dynamics, the MDARS is a result of the Army’s JPEO-CBD – PM Force Protection Systems, and is designed to relieve personnel of the repetitive and sometimes dangerous task of patrolling exterior areas that require some level of security.
The small autonomous robot operates independently and is designed to perform random patrols. The MDARS unit only requires direct operator action to assess situations when needed, and when an operator is required, the robot is controlled at a command center at NNSS and onboard sensors and real-time video allow the operator to see intruders or suspect activity as soon as the robot encounters it.
“The robots are a great addition to the NNSS protective force,” said Brad Peterson, chief and associate administrator for Defense Nuclear Security. “The robots allow us to improve security at remote portions of the Nevada National Security Site at reduced costs,” he added. Use of the robot is expected to save the NNSS $6 million in infrastructure investments for equipment that it will not purchase such as cameras, towers, lights, trenching and burial of cables to support towers and motion detection units to support protection of remote sensitive areas, according to the NNSA. In addition, use of the robots is expected to save the NNSS another $1 million annually in protective force expenditures and equipment maintenance that will not be required.
The robots operate at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and can go for more than 12 hours of continuous use without having to be refueled. The robots can keep track of inventory, as well as gates, locks and other barriers, by using radio frequency identification tags. Members of the protective force have received training on operating the MDARS. That includes learning how to manually initiate and postpone patrols; how to drive the unit when necessary; and how to use the unit’s microphone and speaker to interact with humans it encounters.
The NNSS plans to deploy two additional MDARS during the next six months at various remote locations, the agency says.