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May 16, 2013

Security robots ready for Confed Cup

SAO PAULO -- The Brazilian government says some of the security robots bought to improve public safety during the 2014 World Cup will be ready for the Confederations Cup in June.

The company iRobot says the 30 robots would be delivered by the end of the year, along with spares and other support gear. The government confirmed Thursday that some will already be in action in the six cities hosting Confederations Cup matches.

The company said Brazil signed a $7.2 million contract, which included the small unmanned ground vehicles which can provide surveillance, bomb removal and other law-enforcement missions.

The Confederations Cup is the first of a series of high profile events Brazil will host, including the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Security at sporting events has become a hot topic after the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon, although Brazilian officials have said they didn't make significant changes to the country's security plans because of the incident in the United States. Brazil has never had to deal with terrorist attacks in the past.

The equipment being purchased by Brazil includes a type of multi-use robot "that has proven useful for a variety of law enforcement applications, including the inspection of potentially dangerous areas and objects, the removal of suspicious devices and the detection of chemical and explosive agents," according to iRobot.

The robots weigh about 60 pounds and are customizable to include a robotic arm and other feature. They are operated remotely with a small control unit that essentially is a ruggedized laptop with a game-style controller, the company said.

"The purpose of these robots is to keep the operator and other people safe while an investigation is being conducted," iRobot told The Associated Press in an email.

The company said it has "delivered more than 5,000 robots to military and civil defense forces worldwide."

Brazil plans to have between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers in each of the 12 host cities during the World Cup, the first in Brazil since 1950. The 2016 Olympics in Rio will be the first in South America.

The Brazilian Air Force earlier this year said it invested nearly $25 million to purchase two Israeli-made drones to help provide public safety. It already had two of the unmanned planes since 2001. The air force said it will also have a new radar system in place.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had already announced that security will be reinforced along the 10,000 miles of the country's borders in preparation for the Confederations Cup. About 20,000 troops are expected to be added to reinforce security in the region.

Brazil shares borders with 10 countries in South America. Most police action in the region involves combating drug traffic and the illegal entrance of goods.

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