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Marines want lots of robots they can throw

10lb bot just part of robotic Marine Corp of the future

By Layer 8 on Wed, 08/19/09 - 9:08am.

Dragon RunnerThe US Marine Corp has a request - build and rapidly deploy more 10lb or under robots its personnel can throw into dangerous situations that can quickly gather information without endangering Marines.

The throwable robot is part of a family of robots that would range from the 10lb version,  to one that would act as a central controlling device and weigh close to 300lbs.  According to the C4ISRjournal.com site, Marine commanders are demanding ever lighter robots so that troops don't have to offload critical equipment from their rucksacks to accommodate them.

Col. James Braden who runs the Robotics Systems Joint Project Office specifically highlighted the proposed throwable robot at the recent Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C: "Part of that family is a small - read under 10 pounds - tough robot that could be actually throwable and would give reconnaissance type things - day or night reconnaissance."

The Marines in particular have requested and deployed such lightweight devices in the past. Carnegie Mellon University robotics researchers, in conjunction with the Marine's developed a small, throwable, remote-controlled prototype robot designed for surveillance in urban settings known as the Dragon Runner. The Dragon Runner can see around corners inside buildings, sewers, drainpipes, caves, courtyards. QinetiQ also makes a Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle based on the Dragon Runner.

Braden wants robots capable of truly fighting alongside Marine riflemen, in large numbers. "You need to help me give them a better robot to operate more like a member of the squad," he said.

Squad bots would perform a wide range of missions. Some, called mules would haul supplies for the over-burdened infantry. Others would carry weapons to complement human fire teams. Both types of bots already exist in prototype form, but require significant improvement before they can "enlist" for day-to-day service.

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