Bomb Squad Robot Delivers Pizza, Saves A Man's Life

Disarming the situation

Northrop Grumman Andros F6A Robot

Northrop Grumman Andros F6A Robot

Kelsey D. Atherton

Sometimes, a kind hand holding out a pizza is enough, even if that hand is attached to the mechanical arm of a bomb squad robot. On Monday, California Highway Patrol responded to a man standing with a knife on a San Jose highway overpass. After a five-hour standoff, the man left alive, thanks in no small part to the bomb squad robot.

Police robots are traditionally used to inspect and, if need be, disable explosive devices. But they can also be disarming in other ways. Once it became clear to police that the man was armed and at risk, rather than confront him with officers they sent out a robot with a phone and a pizza.

Sergeant Chris Sciba of the San Jose Police Department told IEEE Spectrum reporter Tekla Perry:

[Because] delivering food is a way of encouraging someone to do something we want them to do, we sent pizza with phone. We [instructed the subject] that if he wanted the pizza released, to pick up the phone. The robot was holding the pizza, it released the pizza once the subject picked up phone to talk to negotiators.

It took several hours for the robot to get there, but about an hour after the robot (and the pizza) arrived, the man dropped his knife and calmly walked away from the overpass.