Engineering safety for rescue teams

ENGINEERS in Rotherham have designed and built a prototype vehicle to withstand the blast impact from buried explosive charges.

The idea was to create an unmanned machine capable of conducting search and rescue and reconnaissance missions where it is too difficult for humans.

Key features include an armoured outer hull designed for directing a blast away from the drive and control systems.

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Design engineer Tom Wood, from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, added: “The wire wheels present a small area to the explosive charge to allow much of the blast to pass through.

“A conventional pneumatic tyre can deflate if the tyre or rim suffers localised damage, but the individual elements of the wire wheel are not dependent on each other, so localised damage does not cause complete failure of the wheel. 

“This helps ensure that the vehicle remains mobile after a blast so that it can return itself to base.”

The AMRC’s design and prototyping group was awarded funding after a Centre for Defence Enterprise competition to design a robust ground vehicle.

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There were no structural of internal failures during blast tests and the electronics remained functional. 

Senior project manager John Spencer said: “The success of the live blast trials confirmed how robust the prototype is, but more importantly it has highlighted the areas that could be developed and improved further.

“The potential uses of our vehicle include driving ahead of a unit to investigate a suspicious object without putting personnel at risk. 

“If some of the design features developed by the team can be scaled up and applied to a manned vehicle, the project has the potential to lead to protection systems that could ultimately save lives in high risk situations.”