An intrepid group of students may have found a solution in tackling the threat of Hamas terror tunnels that was unveiled with deadly effect during last summer's war, and which the terrorist organization is busily rebuilding.
While the invention does not find hidden tunnels, it can help map out tunnels once a single entry point or pier is found.
"They already invented the wheel. So we invented two," said students Yoni Ovadya, Matan Dasa and Chaim Ashkenazi who are completing four years of mechanical and mechatronics engineering at Ariel University in Samaria.
The students, under the guidance of Prof. Tzvi Shiller, have developed as their final project the RoboWheel 1001, a machine with two wheels capable of navigating difficult terrain in order to map out the Hamas tunnel systems breaching into the Gaza Belt region.
"The main need that we wanted to deal with was maneuverability in hostile territory that could endanger human lives, while dealing with obstacles," said Ovadya. "After Operation Protective Edge and the emergence of the tunnel threat in public consciousness, it was brought home how tunnels are a central part of the terror threat."
"In addition to this threat there are situations in which there is a need for maneuverability in a problematic region both in terms of terrain and hostility," he said, adding that there is an essential need for means by which entry into hostile territory and safe return without any danger to human life is possible.
The students noted that in addition to the security application, their invention can be applied to tunnels used to smuggle drugs and stolen goods, such as those on the US-Mexican border and even in Israel on the border with the Sinai peninsula.
RoboWheel consists of a central bar connected to two wheels, each capable of independent movement and controlled via a cell phone application that can be used as a remote control.
The device is designed with a mechanism providing a low center of weight, and each side has a bar designed to prevent flipping over. It is built to move stably on the most difficult terrain.
It can travel at ten kilometers per hour (over 6 mph) and can reach a five kilometer per hour speed (over 3 mph) on inclines. It is capable of turning in place and moving over sand, gravel and other challenging environments.