Heading to Summit of the Americas: Obama, Chávez – and robots

Some 32 police agencies representing 27 countries are sharing security technology like robots for the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, a good sign for regional integration, writes a blogger.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, jbriski.wordpress.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

What kind of security measures are necessary for a regional meeting that brings together 33 of the heads of state and governments of the Americas?

According to El Universal (link in Spanish), General Ricardo Restrepo of the Colombian National Police announced recently that five anti-explosive robots will be on hand throughout the Summit of the Americas, to be held April 14 – 15 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Canadian-manufactured digital and analog robots complete the team of anti-explosives experts. In fact, they will help ensure the safety of security forces just as much as the heads of state.

Each of the robots is equipped with an advanced technological system. The heaviest of the five weighs in at 200 kilos ( about 440 pounds), with capabilities that include shooting water up to 350 meters (over 380 yards) using a built-in water canon; night vision viewfinder; and five night vision cameras – all while being controlled from afar using a console.

Major Giovani Riaño Garzón, an explosive ordinance disposal expert, described some of the specific capabilities of the robot bomb squad:

…[T]he robots allow us to not face an explosive charge personally and they do the actual work of deactivating the bomb. Furthermore, they have video cameras with audio equipment, a laser-shooting system, and we can shoot water or plugs of metal or rubber or other materials. 

He went on to say that the power with which the water is shot from the canon is so strong that it can even break material as strong as steel.

Although the article only mentioned the robots’ origin as a side note, it seems to me that this Canadian technology is a great example of regional integration and collaboration. A few days ago, El Universal reported (in Spanish) that a total of 32 police agencies representing 27 countries are sharing technology and working on security concerns leading up to the Summit.

These robots are only one element of a larger overarching security strategy based on incorporating advanced technology with more traditional security measures, such as mounted patrols.

– Jackie Briski is a Latin Americanist and author of the blog cuando asi no sea.

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