What was on the up-and-up at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America convention? The question is more like, what’s on the up and coming back down? How about throwable robots.
Technology has made on-the-ground recon robots lighter and more durable, and the military announced Wednesday a $6 million purchase of throwable robots from ReconRobotics.
Popular Science was at the convention last week and described the benefits of “throwbots” compared to other robots in combat and emergency situations:
What soldiers in, say, Afghanistan really need is a robot intuitive enough that any soldier can pick up the controls, and something highly portable and easily deployable on a moment’s notice so it can quickly begin feeding real-time intelligence to mission commanders when threats emerge on short notice.
In short, they need a small, simple robot they can throw or launch over walls or into second-story windows, something that soldiers can control with handheld Xbox-like controls that come naturally to young men and women of a certain generation, something that can beam them back video and/or other information from a safe distance (and as stealthily as possible). And at AUVSI that need was being met with a smattering of little robots that company reps couldn’t wait to let us abuse.
Popular Science goes on to report that use of robots as the front line has grown in popularity during the last decade, but the first generation of these robots were complicated, heavy and required special training for use. Now, almost every company that does work with reconnaissance robotics, it states, is investing in making these lighter, more durable machines:
“One time we dropped it out of a helicopter from more than 100 feet,” one of the designers [told Popular Science]. “The worst that happened was that one wheel was slightly damaged so it wanted to drive a little wobbly. But it still rolled.”
Depending on the company, throwbots can range from five to 10 pounds and feature infrared technology, cameras and can seek out IEDs. Here are videos of just a few:
Dragon Runner 10 by QinetiQ:
FirstLook by iRobot:
The military announced Wednesday that it awarded ReconRobotics, an Edina, Minn., company, nearly $6 million to build its version of these throwbots. ReconRobotic’s Recon Scout XT weights a little more than a pound, can be deployed in five seconds and thrown up to 120 feet.
Watch this video to learn more about Recon Scout:
Popular Science reported earlier this year that throwbots are also being used by police and firefighters in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.