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Taking aim at the IED market: a look at the new Optical Aiming System.

For Gord Scott, the most amazing thing about his invention is the fact that no one else had come up with it first. "I'm just amazed that it's never come out because it's so stupidly simple," says Scott.

When it comes to bomb detection and removal, gone is the day of one poor guy heading off to tinker with an unknown package. Instead, the preferred tool used by experts is a robotic device that officers drive over to the ordinance. The bomb team then inspects the potential explosive via a camera attached to the robot in order to determine whether or not it can be seen as a threat. If this is the case, most robots come equipped with a weapon that destroys the package with either high-pressure water or a slug. To do so, the bomb team looks at their video screen and attempts to aim their weapon by finding a dot projected from a laser mounted above the gun.

Herein lies the problem.

In ideal conditions, this laser can be easily detectable on the team's monitor. However, not all situations are ideal. As such, valuable time can be wasted as officers try to find a laser in ugly situations, says Scott. Despite this, the RCMP veteran with 20 years experience in explosives says very little effort has been expended to find a way around this problem.

"Even today people never got over the hurdle of using a laser to aim a weapon," says Scott. "Even [on] the very latest robots made today people are mounting lasers as close to the barrel as they can and try to find the lasers. So rather than figure a different way around it, they go 'oh, we'll get a green laser so we can see it further.' And I'm saying there's got to be a better way because if you go outside [in a heavy snowstorm for example] and try to find your laser, you won't be able to find it. Cameras are nowhere near as sensitive as your eye for finding a laser dot so if you can't get a robot up to a package you'll spend a lot of time trying to find that laser."

So he decided to use some of his spare time around the office to try to find a solution to this problem.

"The beauty of being [at the RCMP's explosives disposal and technology section] is that we're not only an operational response unit, where we actually have to be the responders, but we're not run off of our feet so much that we can't sit back and take a minute and try to figure out ... where the technology is going and where are the threats going ... and couple that with the access to technical resources and funding," he says.

He then set about to remove the laser entirely and replace it with a camera just above the gun barrel. The camera then relays the image back to the bomb team, who aim the weapon by using a computer-generated crosshair that can be moved around on the video screen, thereby eliminating the need for an aiming laser.

"It's one of those things that once you see it you say, Jesus how come it took so long to do that," he says.

Scott brought the idea for his Optical Aiming System to Tecops Ltd. in Ottawa which subsequently received funding from the U.S. government's Technical Support Working Group and eventually 10 prototypes were created. So far, four of these models have been sent to the U.S. military, one to the Houston police and one has stayed with the RCMP in Ottawa. After looking at the model, the Niagara police in Ontario have also purchased a system.

However, they have yet to receive a response from the Canadian military.

"I can't even get the guy who buys IED equipment to come over and look at it," Scott said in February.

As the Canadian and American forces face a daunting IED threat in both Afghanistan and Iraq, technologies such as Scott's certainly have a strong selling point for the military. And at a cost of approximately $8,000 for a complete system, Scott's invention is not out of the price range for metropolitan police forces.

"The beauty of this is that I can aim anything. And it's so dirt cheap--this isn't a $100,000 aiming system--and it's so easy to [use.]"
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Title Annotation:EYE ON INDUSTRY; Improvised Explosive Device
Author:Knoll, Darcy
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:734
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