Wheelbarrow (robot)

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Wheelbarrow remotely controlled bomb disposal tool.
On the streets of Northern Ireland in 1978

The Wheelbarrow is a remotely controlled robot designed in 1972 for use by British Army bomb disposal teams operating in Northern Ireland (321 EOD), mainland Britain (11 EOD Regiment) and Iraq. Over 400 have been destroyed in operation, and they are considered to have saved the lives of hundreds.

A retired Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Tank regiment, Peter Miller (1912 – 2006) conceived the idea in the aftermath of a period (1971 – 72) when the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) lost eight ATOs (Ammunition Technical Officers) on active duty in Northern Ireland:[1][2] an appalling rate of attrition due to the limited options available to an operator faced with an IED. Tasked with finding a solution by Colonel George Styles, Miller "remembered that [he] had invented a delightful labour-saving technique when [he] modified my lawnmower. This seemed a possible solution to the problem, so [he] went to a local garden centre with the intention of buying a gutted lawnmower. The sales manager suggested that the chassis of an electrically powered wheelbarrow might be suitable. [He] thought it was ideal and bought one on the spot."[3]

The head of the RAOC’s Bomb Disposal School (CAD Kineton, Warwickshire) Major Robert John Wilson ‘Pat’ Patterson's (1924 – 2003) invention of the ‘Pigstick’, a device which fires an explosively-propelled jet of water to disrupt the circuitry of a bomb and disable it, had just begun to be used by the ATOs in Northern Ireland, but was known to be "virtually useless against"[4] car bombs. By incorporating the 'Pigstick' into the 'Wheelbarrow', Patterson and Miller's inventiveness saved hundreds of lives.

The crude prototypes produced at CAD Kineton proved difficult to manoeuvre so a team at the then Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE, Chertsey) was tasked to improve the tracking and steering.

The Wheelbarrow has undergone several upgrades, the latest being the Wheelbarrow Revolution. The most notable feature in this model include the 360 degree arm which can be outfitted with various EOD attachments. The Wheelbarrow Revolution is also capable of climbing stairways.

The development of Wheelbarrow from Mark 3 to Mark 8 prototype was carried out by Peter Smith and Dennis Fry BEM, the Project Manager being Winter Pattinson MBE. Credit for chassis and automative design, build and fabrication should be attributed to Dennis Fry a workshop engineer. Peter Smith designed and manufactured the electrical systems and was presented with a model of a MK7 Wheelbarrow enscribed with Thanks from Lofty and the User. Other members of the team were Cyril Luger who looked after the electronic side, & Rod Crane.