RIO GRANDE COUNTY — The Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department has welcomed a new deputy to their law enforcement family, but it's not quite like anyone else that works there. Sheriff Don McDonald was pleased to announce the department was recently awarded an iRobot 510 PackBot to assist in dangerous situations.
The 510 PackBot is a multi-mission tactical mobile robot developed by Endeavor Robotics, formerly iRobot. It is designed for use by troops and first responders to carry out dangerous missions in high-threat battlefield scenarios.
The department was chosen through the 1033 program for the robot along with over 180 other departments to receive one nation-wide and was one of 14 departments in Colorado.
“This is a $78,000 piece of equipment and all we had to do was sign for it. It will be used in situations that otherwise could be potentially dangerous for our deputies as well as cut down response times for unidentified objects and potential bomb situations. It can take the Pueblo Bomb Squad roughly two hours to get here from their location and now with our new deputy, we can send pictures and video before they even have to dispatch,” explained McDonald.
Lt. Tyler Dean and one other officer have been training to operate the robot for the past several weeks and have about another month to go. Dean explained that the robot can go upstairs, reach out with a claw like mechanism called a pincer and grab objects as well as reach about four feet in height to look through windows and has infrared capabilities.
“The remote for the device is similar to an Xbox remote and is fairly easy to navigate,” McDonald said. “We still have some more training to do to become efficient, but we have gotten the hang of it.”
McDonald has focused on many things since he was elected to his position as Rio Grande County Sheriff and bringing the department into the 21stcentury has been one of the main tasks.
“With this device we can ensure the safety of our deputies and the community,” he said. “We will be able to use this robot to go into dangerous hostage situations should they arise or respond safely to reports of suspicious packages like the one we handled last summer at the local grocery store. It is another way to keep our people safe.”
McDonald named the robot Wally II and will decorate the new deputy with stickers depicting the department’s deputy badge.
“It will become part of our department just like anything or anyone else and we are grateful for the opportunity to have one,” McDonald said.