Throwbot - Pocket-Sized Recon Robot

Redstone Arsenal is developing the Throwbot, a soda can-sized robot to aid soldiers in quickly gathering more information about their immediate environment. The robot has a transmitter and camera; it has a range of about 100 feet.

(Throwbot in hand)

"It weighs very little, but probably the most important aspect of this small (robot) is speed," said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Terry Griffin, program manager at the Robotics Systems Joint Project Office. "Other robots we have in the field now take a long time to set up and put into an area, and all the time our troops are exposed to enemy attack.

"With the 'throwbot,' a soldier takes it out and throws it in somewhere to check out an area. They don't have to sit around for long."
(From Military Considers Throwbot)

To provide an example of how a Throwbot might be used in the field, Colonel Griffin tossed a throwbot to the upstairs landing of a training facility, then used its videogame-like interface to maneuver it around the area until it spotted a possible assailant crouched against a wall.

"Is that good information to have before you go in there, or what?" asks Colonel Griffin.

The Throwbot class goes back a number of years; DARPA has been studying different structures and examples of robots that are capable of being thrown into service by the human operator. For example, the Small Unit Robot (developed in 2000) from the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory has a 16 centimeter diameter.

(From SuBot Robot - pdf)

It has 2-wheel skid steering with a tail stabilizer; it houses a video camera, RF receiver and video transmitter with a range of thirty meters.

An even smaller robot called a Scout can be used as a remote sensor; it could even be positioned initially with a grenade launcher. The Scout vehicles are cylindrical, 40mm in diameter and 110mm long. They can roll up 20-degree slopes, and hop over 4 obstacles (by winding and releasing a leaf-spring tail). The Scout sensor suite may include a video camera (fixed or mounted on a retractable pan-and-tilt unit), microphone, vibration sensor, gas sensor, and other sensors.

(From Scout Robot - pdf)

Soldiers in the field will begin testing the $6,000 prototypes in the next few months; production could begin within a year.

For science-fictional references, as well as more stories about other robots in the field, see COTS Scout: Team Building Robot, Roomba's Brother PackBot and Dragon Runner Robot Always Lands On Its Feet.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/26/2005)

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