When civilians gather around a Sacramento crime scene, it’s not always the officers they’re looking at. More likely, eyes are on the toughest member of the Explosives Ordinance Disposal unit: Ozbot.
Ozbot is a battery-powered police robot designed to disrupt explosives and assess high-risk situations. The Sacramento Police Department demonstrated Ozbot on Wednesday after residents showed particular interest in the four-wheeled machine during an incident last week.
At the demonstration, Ozbot climbed a flight of stairs, retrieved a grenade and detonated a box of bomb parts.
“He protects the cops and he protects the community,” said Officer Michele Gigante, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Police Department. “He’s an invaluable and effective tool.”
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Ozbot was manufactured in Tennessee and arrived at the Sacramento Police Department in the late 1990s. It has since undergone updates and is regularly maintained by bomb squad officers. The machine, which is currently the only active robot in the Sacramento Police Department, is named after retired bomb technician Rick Osborn.
In a potentially dangerous situation such as a methamphetamine lab, the police deploy Ozbot as a first set of eyes, said Sgt. James Harrington. The robot’s cameras transmit images to Ozbot’s partner officer, who can operate the machine remotely from up to half a mile away.
In a typical week, Ozbot can be used for a reconnaissance mission, officer training, to assist the Special Weapons and Tactics team or to help regional bomb squads.
“If we thought we had an explosives lab, this would be our first choice,” said Harrington. “So we won’t have to put on a bomb suit and put someone in a dangerous situation.”
Ozbot has suffered no injuries from shootings or explosives since its arrival, said Harrington, and will continue to be used indefinitely.
“I’d like to think he’ll still be working when I retire,” said Harrington.