Clinton bomb squad robot company seals air drone deal


Jim Matheny, WBIR

Bomb squad robots that roll into the most dramatic situations to save lives around the world are made in East Tennessee. Now the robot manufacturer in Anderson County is taking its business to the sky by sealing a deal to sell drone aircraft.

Remotec in Clinton, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, signed a deal to become the sole U.S. seller of AirRobot’s unmanned helicopter aircraft to law enforcement and emergency first responders. AirRobot, based in Germany, approached Remotec due to the Tennessee company’s dominant grip on the bomb squad market in the United States.

“We have 90 percent of the robots used by state and local law enforcement. Our ground robots are used in any type of hostage situation, bomb situations, SWAT, and hazardous materials,” said Chuck Beck, head of manufacturing for Remotec. “What we do here saves lives. With the AirRobot, you can send a drone out to basically survey an area. Putting those two together, you have additional capabilities that you don’t have currently.”

Remotec will not only sell the AirRobot aircraft. Its workers will provide training, maintenance, and repairs for AirRobot aircraft in the United States.

“These two products are a natural fit. The aircraft can really help the robot operator with situational awareness to survey an area and navigate the robots,” said Mark Kauchak, director of sales and customer support for Remotec. “If you think about it, right now [the robot operator is] basically looking through a soda straw as he’s driving the robot. The air component can means they can survey to see who else is in the area, what the area around it looks like, are there other vehicles or other people. So he knows how to better respond to the situation.”

Beyond enthusiasm for success and growth of a local company, Remotec employees said people should care about this distribution deal because combining wheels on the ground with a birds-eye view is truly a life-saver. The tandem of aircraft and ground robots will help put the worst of the world within visible reach, while keeping first responders out of harm’s way.

“There’s a lot of excitement. Everybody here is excited, very dedicated. And this will definitely save lives,” said Beck. “By putting those two together, you have additional capabilities that you don’t have currently.”

Remotec said while the drones and robots are currently stand-alone products, they may work to create new radio controllers that can operate both the aircraft and ground-based robots.