“The remote-controlled robot waiting to save lives on Syria’s urban battlefields

A rebel computer engineer has developed a robot to carry sniper casualties to safety. Now all he needs is a bulldozer chassis By John Beck for theguardian.com

In July 2012, Ahmad Haidar saw a young man die at the hands of a Syrian army sniper on an Aleppo street.

The first shot had hit the civilian in the leg and onlookers felt it was a deliberate attempt to incapacitate rather than instantly kill, which Haidar says is a common tactic intended to lure out rescuers to target them too. Aware of this danger, the onlookers, unable to approach the victim, desperately struggled to pull him to safety using ropes and metal poles.

“He was trying to get behind cover and people tried to help with anything that was there,” Haidar recalls. The sniper fired again with a lethal shot to the neck.

The attempt to help was brave, but unprepared and badly equipped. Haidar thought there was something he could do to help.

Drawing on his expertise in electronics and computer programming – which he taught before the war – he devised a hi-tech response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s snipers. The result: a caterpillar-tracked, remote-controlled robot equipped with large mechanical arms.


It is designed to pick up wounded people and place them on a stretcher inside an armoured compartment and move to safety. Haidar named it “Tena”, after a Finnish woman he once sat next to on a flight and “fell in love with for an hour”. He is now, he quickly adds, happily married.”

it it is this type of news that reconnects us with the human spirit, someone in the midst of the most terrible violence who uses his intellect not to make bigger and better bombs, but to save lives.