Now, Robocop Is More Than Just A Movie

GRAHAM HAWKES HAS BEEN designing undersea robots since 1972, when he was 24. But his latest robotic creation is land-based--a weapon for taking the heat off cops and military special-forces units. "My work involves extending human capabilities into hazardous environments," says the British-born engineer. "Airspace punctuated by bullets is about as hazardous as it gets."

In early February, Hawkes will unveil the Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platform, or TRAP (picture). It's a remotely operated rifle that practically never misses at distances less than a couple hundred yards. If a target can be seen by the rifle's telescopic video-camera sight, the system will automatically calculate range and, on command from a human operator, shoot with pinpoint accuracy. The view through the telescopic sight can be relayed to a control unit around a corner or in a nearby van, so police need not be exposed to return fire. For the public, that should mean reduced risk of injury from stray bullets because cops won't be firing hasty shots and ducking for cover.

Hawkes says agents from several law-enforcement agencies, as well as from U.S. and foreign military commands, have already asked to visit his new startup, Tactical Telepresent Technologies Inc. in Point Richmond, Calif. He plans to sell TRAP for about $45,000 per unit, then work the price down to $25,000.

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