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Chester's Police and Fire Departments to use underwater robot for search and recovery missions

Chester Police, Fire Departments using new technology for search and recovery missions
Chester Police, Fire Departments using new technology for search and recovery missions 01:58

CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) -- The City of Chester's Police and Fire Departments are using new technology for search and recovery missions.

They're among the first departments in the Commonwealth to have their own underwater robot.

Chester Fire Captain Kevin Postlewait went through training with the state-of-the-art robot he says will make his job as a diver easier.

"Our plan is to use it for recovery of weapons, vehicles, people," Postlewait said. 

The 40-pound submersible has lights and arms that can grab objects and a remote control camera.

Postlewait uses a joystick to move the device as he tries to pick up a pair of milk crates placed in the Springton Reservoir for practice.

"With the sonar, we can, I believe, reach out to about 300 feet, which you will never be able to see with our own eyes underwater, so it will make a drastic difference in visual sight," Postlewait said. 


The fire department shares the robot with the police department, which bought the device for $300,000 using a state grant. The fire chief said the biggest benefit is that it makes divers' jobs safer, whether they're looking for human remains or evidence.

"We would send this drone out to kind of get an exact location, so we don't necessarily have to put a diver down on his hands and knees searching with zero visibility," John-Paul Shirley, the commissioner of the City of Chester Bureau of Fire, said. "Before we had this drone, that's exactly what we had to do."

Using this robot means divers will spend less time in dangerous waters, which could have fast-moving currents or hazardous debris. 

"It's been interesting to see what we can do underwater and with these new tools, it's even more exciting," Postlewait said. 

The dive team includes 12 Chester police officers and firefighters. They'll continue training with the robot on Wednesday in the Delaware River.

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