P.C police robot goes where officers can’t
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent August 16, 2013 11:24PM
The Porter County Sheriff's Police Department's ANDROS robot. | Photo provided
Updated: September 18, 2013 6:14AM
VALPARAISO — Although the Porter County Sheriff’s Department has been using its ANDROS robot up to 40 to 50 times a year, Wednesday was the first time the robot was used in an indoor tactical mission.
Porter County Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Sheets directed the movements for 3 1/2 to 4 hours during the stand off, searching rooms, finding weapons and attempting to talk with the standoff’s suspect Eric S. Martin, 45, via the microphone and speaker.
Sgt. Tim Manteuffel of the sheriff department’s tactical squad said ANDROS was “very useful. It got in areas we couldn’t go.”
Ultimately, it was his Emergency Response Team that found Martin in a bedroom, but the robot was able to find weapons in the house and know which rooms were clear without risking officers’ lives with someone who was shooting at them.
Sheets remotely drove the 500 pound ANDROS up the front stairs and opened doors.
“It went through the front door. He had it barricaded. I ended up using the arm to clear space,” Sheets said.
Sheets can also pick up objects with ANDROS, the typical use for the Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit that services the seven counties of Northwest Indiana and gets dozens of calls for ANDROS a year.
The machine is about 4 feet 6 inches long but thin enough that if the primary tires are taken off, it could travel down the aisle of a bus.
Sheets said he can sometimes flip light switches, but it’s hard because there’s not much depth using the remote monitor for the robot’s four cameras.
“It’s matter of getting used to it,” he said.
Sheets said that his training and experience using the robotic arm hasn’t made a difference in his ability to work arcade claw-grabbing prize machines.
As of Friday, ANDROS was in Porter County’s hazardous materials shed because any jostle released some of the CS gas officers shot into the house before ANDROS entered.
With ANDROS, the Munster Police supplied a reconnaissance robot about the size of a remote control car for its second such mission.
A Munster Police Department spokesperson said officers used it on New Year’s Day in a homicide investigation with their SWAT team.
Manteuffel said the robot was useful in its ability to go into small places and under furniture.