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Pointman Scores High Marks with Law Enforcement, Military

Call it the "little robot that could."

ARA's18-pound Pointman Lightweight Reconnaissance Vehicle has attracted its fair share of attention from law enforcement agencies and the military.

Pointman robots are supporting police departments across the nation as well as the U.S. military, and its users are enthusiastic about its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in dangerous scenarios, not to mention its affordable price and performance in the field.

"We've been incredibly pleased with it. … It's small, sturdy, indestructible," said Phoenix police Sgt. Chuck Mount, a member of the police department's bomb squad. He also praised the Pointman's "ease of deployment" and how "it's very user-friendly." The police force for the nation's fifth largest city purchased it in September 2009.

The Phoenix police force bought the compact and highly mobile robot with grant money and hopes to be able to purchase another soon to use as a second pair of eyes for inspecting vehicles and clearing potentially dangerous sites or structures before officers are sent in.

Tempe, Ariz., police Detective Chuck Corning found the two Pointman robots purchased for his police force's bomb squad replaced "homemade, garage-type robots" that were "completely unreliable."

"Pointman gives us a foothold in a dangerous situation where officers are not sent in at first, avoiding a potential bloodbath," he said. The Tempe Police Department has used it to investigate a reported suspicious package.

"It's been great working with the company and customer service has been great," said Capt. Robert Evans, Assistant Field Force Commander for the Vermont State Police, who added that the agency has been pleased with ARA's response to its requested product modifications.

"Like that, it's ready to go, there's no set-up, (and) it's off to the races," he said of the Pointman's ease of use. The Vermont State Police has used its two Pointman robots in a number of barricaded suspect calls.


Military evaluation
In early September, the Pointman got the chance to show its stuff to the U.S. Army user and research and development communities at the Robotics Rodeo at Fort Hood, Texas.

This five-day demonstration event at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is described as a market research event to see if the displayed technology can potentially benefit Army robotics programs.

On an observation chart, the Pointman received 8 out of 9 rating for hardware, software and manufacturability; 3 out of 3 for ease of use; 5 out of 5 for appropriate size, weight and power; 4 out 4 for fit and finish; and 4 out of 4 for durability.

"The Army could use the systems as it is right now; its simplicity is it strength. It is easy to employ, agile, quick and has recon capabilities," members of the observation team said.


Law enforcement assessment
The Pointman also underwent a monthlong National Tactical Officers Association member test assessment conducted by a Florida law enforcement agency. Pointman received an overall score of 4.94 out of 5 points.

"The design of the Pointman is great because it (is) ruggedized and can withstand tactical usage. The Pointman is able to accommodate tactical approaches and keep the operator at a safe distance to get the job done," the law enforcement product tester wrote.

Pointman received perfect scores for its ease of use, quality, durability, performance and application. The complete assessment is available to NTOA members on its Web site.


National exposure
The National Geographic Channel featured the Pointman last year on one episode of its four-part "Disaster Lab" series.

Laurie McIntosh, marketing and sales coordinator of Vertek Division, which manufactures and markets the Pointman, said that Pointman will have additional exposure in an upcoming television series that will document law enforcement response to hostage and other crisis situations.