Sulaiman Khan’s Robocop waiting to roll in

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There are a few artistic endeavours which reach far across the world and prompt people into action. Unbeknownst to BDU head AIG Shafqat Malik, The Hurt Locker also resonated with Sulaiman Khan.

Khan was an Msc student at the Institute of Physics and Electronics, University of Peshawar when he decided to put together a bomb defusing robot. “I got the idea from the movie. The situation in K-P was the final straw, people dying while trying to defuse bombs and save lives,” he told The Express Tribune over the phone.

It took Khan three months and cost him Rs82,000 which he had to piece together to complete his work. “I looked up the robot online, but, surprisingly, I could not find an accessible prototype.”

Since the project was self-funded, Khan made the lowest, cheapest model. All the parts were purchased locally from Peshawar. It did not come easy, “there were lots of starts and stops, it needed a lot of mechanical skills.” But in the end, it worked. Khan’s robot has not been tried with live ammunition but it has been put through test runs by him.

Walk the line

The robot can carry up to 21 kilogrammes and has wheels which work like a conveyor belt, making it ideal for a rough terrain, “the movement assembly is like a car’s”. It is battery operated and has one arm, but another can easily be added. “The hand has a five directional motion, and the rotator cuff can move 360 degrees.”

Khan admits while his robot’s current capabilities do not allow it to open a pressure cooker bomb to reach its circuitry; it can easily lift and remove it to a safer location.

It can defuse detonators, access the wiring and the battery connections used for the bomb’s ignition, shared the innovator.

The robot also provides live visuals. Its camera transmits through waves compatible with computers and tv sets.

Going out of the garage factory

After Khan’s bomb defusing robot was displayed at a project and poster exhibit in March 2013, he got some interest from local law enforcement. “An SSP approached me the next day, offering to help take the project on an industrial scale.”

But nothing worked out, “I called a few times to see the robot which the government had given them, which 285 engineers made in Japan. But it was always a miss.”

“My department coordinator Mohammad Kamran and I kept thinking we would go meet the police to take it forward but then the interim government came in and nothing happened.”

Khan shares, Kamran had submitted a few proposals to take the robot to the industrial level, even one to the Higher Education Commission. “With Rs1 million, I can modify, perfect and test the device. I’ve only scavenged locally for parts; with more money, I can make it more precise, add sensors, make it more sensitive.”

“The only training the BDU would need to command the robot is how to use a joystick.” Now Khan works for a company called Technology Links, which provides scientific and technical help to hospitals and educational institutes, but his passion for innovating has not taken a backseat.

Khan is planning a second bomb defusing robot prototype, improving on his first. In broad strokes he explained the new robot work on an Arduino platform with a stepper or servo motor to reduce torque and increase precision in the movement. If all goes according to plan, the robot will also have a greater range of communication at 1,500 metres and will have night vision.

Without any grant or external assistance, Khan will travel to Karachi to find the right parts –“I’m doing it for my own experience, I’d be highly pleased if I can contribute to our defence line – which I am trying.” Without a trace of cynicism, he admitted he was not expecting any accolades or offers of help to take his project further.

Source: The Express Tribune.