Bomb squad robots help keep region safe

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com The Tupelo Police Department's Andros-II explosive ordnance disposal robot rests in the explosives training area at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Center. Behind it is the department's larger F6-B robot.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
The Tupelo Police Department’s Andros-II explosive ordnance disposal robot rests in the explosives training area at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Center. Behind it is the department’s larger F6-B robot.

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Whether in Hollywood or Tupelo, robots with Tupelo’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad are in action.

Currently, two high-tech robots are housed inside a trailer at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy, but before one of them arrived to keep Northeast Mississippians safer, it was an extra in a “Transformers” movie.

Tupelo Police Lt. Terry Morgan, who heads the Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad, said the majority of bomb calls are false reports of just suspicious packages, “But, anytime we can use a robot instead of a human, we would rather do that.”

Morgan was glad to have the robots last year when the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics called to report finding multiple pipe bombs in a meth lab.

“We sent both of the robots in at the same to remove the pipe bombs and disable them,” Morgan said.

The department gets many calls from family members of recently deceased farmers or World War II veterans who have stumbled on an old store of dynamite or a grenade.

“We’ve recovered old Japanese ordnance brought back form the war and several active grenades,” he said. “The majority of our calls are for explosives left behind by people who have passed away, like dynamite or binary explosives, used in clearing land, that have deteriorated in a shed and become dangerous.”

The robots are modular in construction and can be reassembled easily.

“While we were at training, I saw guys come in with burnt parts, clean them off and put it back together,” Morgan said.

The downside is the robots lack the dexterity of humans and sometimes can’t reach an explosive.

The department has two robots, a larger F6-B that’s more than four feet tall and cost $165,000 and a smaller Andros-II that cost $75,000.

The same F6-B used by Tupelo’s EOD squad was an extra in the movie “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon” before it started work at the Tupelo Police Department last year.

Tupelo has one of the four bomb squads in Mississippi and receives support from the Department of Homeland Security to maintain the program and respond to EOD area calls.

Sgt. Terry Morgan, who oversees the EOD squad, said it responds to three or four explosive ordnance calls in Tupelo and gets about 24 calls from elsewhere in the area each year.

jb.clark@journalinc.com