In Jackson, Miss., a High-Tech Robot bought with Homeland Security Money

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Jackson Police Department will purchase a $202,000 robot that will be able to use a drill, unlock and open doors, climb stairs and even fire a gun.

The Jackson City Council on Tuesday approved the purchase. The robot, paid for by a Homeland Security grant, will be assigned to the city's bomb squad.

Assistant Police Chief Daryl Smith said the robot could save civilian lives and those of the four-member bomb squad.

"When you're walking down to a bomb in a protective suit, it's not only hot in there but there are some other things making you sweat," he said.

The robot is battery-powered able to negotiate most surfaces.

"It runs on tracks, but they can be swapped out for wheels," Smith said. "We'll have capability for remote control or a tether."

Rob II, as Smith said the robot likely will be named, will have mounts to use chemical sniffing and smear sample equipment. Smith also specified mounts for existing X-ray cameras, electric shock equipment, audio and video equipment and a laser-aiming sight.

Rob II will satisfy a nationwide requirement that certified bomb squads have a robot by 2009, Smith said. There are about 400 certified squads nationally, he said, and JPD has one of only three in the state. The others are in Clinton and Biloxi, with a fourth forming in Tupelo.

Several years back, the department got Rob I - a prototype the Army had bought, tested and then sold as surplus.

"It served us well for what it could do - basically pick things up, turn around, and put them in blast boxes," Smith said.

Rob I melted down about five years ago after its electric system shorted.

"It had some issues," he said.