US Army purchases robotic scouts (w/ video)

Oct 10, 2011 by Lisa Zyga weblog
The Recon Scout XT robot can be attached to the SearchStick to survey environments while keeping soldiers in relatively safer positions. Image credit: ReconRobotics

(PhysOrg.com) -- By being the first to scout out an unknown building or peek over a wall, a small dumbbell-shaped robot will be taking over some of the riskiest tasks in the US Army. The robot’s maker, ReconRobotics, Inc., recently announced that the US Army has requested to purchase 315 of the Recon Scout XT robot kits and an equal number of SearchStick devices for $4.8 million. The company expects to deliver the products by the end of October.

The Recon Scout XT robots are designed to assist fire teams by increasing the teams’ situational awareness and standoff distance when investigating unknown environments or during compound clearing operations. For instance, before entering a building or cave, a soldier can toss one of the 1.2-pound robots inside the confined space. Using a hand-held device, the soldier can steer the camera-equipped around as it transmits live video of the environment back to the soldier. The video allows soldiers to determine the layout of the enclosed spaces and the location of hidden enemies, and to identify potential improvised explosive devices.

According to ReconRobotics, the robot can roll quietly over dirt, sand, rocks, and door thresholds, and withstand a 30-foot drop. Its infrared optical system automatically turns on in low light conditions, allowing it to see in complete darkness. It can also be operated in any of three transmitting frequencies, allowing soldiers to operate up to three robots in the same environment at the same time. The systems can be recharged using standard 5590 or 2590 batteries.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Recon Scout XT promotional video. Video credit: ReconRobotics

The SearchStick, a pole with powered jaws, can clasp the Recon Scout XT robot, which allows it to serve as a pole camera. The SearchStick has a collapsed length of 20.5" (52 cm) and can be extended to a length of 72" (183 cm). Instead of tossing the robot, soldiers can physically maneuver the robot to gain views over walled compounds, rooftops, high windows, stairwells, and attics, or in confined spaces such as ventilation ducts, crawl spaces, tunnels, and under vehicles.

More than 2,000 Recon Scout systems are already being used by the US military, as well as friendly international forces and law enforcement agencies. As ReconRobotics emphasizes, the option of sending robots to scout unknown environments can not only enhance mission planning and execution, but also save human lives.

Explore further: Robots recognize humans in disaster environments

More information: www.reconrobotics.com
via: The Engineer

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User comments : 15

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CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2011
Coooool!
Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Lool. So all I have to do is walk up a flight of stairs to get away ? This seems crude beyond belief, not to knock the good mens and womens working on these things, but...
LariAnn
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
Robots should be used to scout any areas that could have IEDs. Better that a robot gets blown up than for one of our soldiers having their legs, or more, blown off.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Why do the words:
"Cave Johnson...we're done here."

come to mind whenever I hear the narrator speak?
(For those who don't know google "aperture investment opportunity")

Oh...and if you throw something like this through a trapdoor onto a roof then expect a grenade to come down the other way.
Nothing pinpoints you like a thrown object that poses no immediate threat.

In summary: gadget with very limited value (and probably another huge price tag. But hey: The economy is in great shape so let's buy all the toys possible, shall we?)
HealingMindN
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Is it confusing for Ray Rodriguez when he thinks "Tango" on DWTS? What other dance terminology the army uses? Fox Trot? Quick Step?
antonima
not rated yet Oct 10, 2011
Eh, 4.8 million and 315 units, I bet this is reserved for black ops. Its just begging to get rigged with explosives.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2011
Search stick.

Ahahahahahaha.... Man.... 4 million for a camera on a pointy stick.

And no money for James Web
MarkyMark
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
What a wast of money! Also in that promotional video seeing the ad guys back away fearfully from the robot was laughable. Wats to stop him just pcking it up or just shooting at it?
shwhjw
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
At $15000 a pop, I hope it's bulletproof! looks like target practice for the enemy.
NotAsleep
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
What makes this unique is that you can throw it. Other robots need to be carefully placed on the ground or they'll break. They better be less expensive than flying robots, though... and WAY more reliable. As always, these are sickeningly overpriced for fairly simple tech but it's not necessarily the fault of the supplier...

@Isaacsname, the point is to know where the enemy is, not to give chase with the bot. If you go up the stairs, I'd grab this and throw it up after you to continue recon. The design is simple and simplicity is key for a hectic environment

@Lariann, most IEDs used these days wouldn't be detectable by this robot. In fact, most properly placed IEDs are totally undetectable without very sophisticated, expensive and delicate equipment.

@Antialias, if they're prepared to throw a grenade down through a trap door, why wouldn't they be prepared to shoot you as you stick your head through the door and THEN throw a grenade? Your statement is flawed
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
if they're prepared to throw a grenade down through a trap door, why wouldn't they be prepared to shoot you as you stick your head through the door and THEN throw a grenade?

The point was that with a thrown object - like this gadget - you pinpoint your onw location. Almost as much as if you had stuck your head over a wall / through a hatch.

A quadcopter or a small mylar-blimp would be much better:
- faster (which means that in the same time as this rover you can scout locations that are farther away - giving you safe distance to the target before moving in. If this rover detects massive presence of enemies then you're already in the middle of it. )
- cannot be foiled by rough ground or high stairs
- you can get it to the target via a circuitous route and not give away where you launched it
- dirt cheap (at 50$ a pop these are practically throw-away items)
NotAsleep
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
If the DoD paid $50 a pop for ANYTHING robotic, it would be a miracle. I've worked with EOD troops that paid $15,000 a pop for a remote controlled car with a dump body.

Without seeing more info on all the options, it's hard to say why they chose this over something else but generally in compound clearing operations, the enemy has a pretty good general idea of where you are and it's up to you to find them as quickly as possible.

Don't forget: just because the DoD bought it doesn't mean the army will use it. If it isn't effective in combat, these will stay back at base and be used to prank fellow soldiers
hard2grep
not rated yet Oct 15, 2011
the same thing could be done with a smartphone and wifi access.remove the lens filter and tadaa! you have terminator vision... I should make a few of these and sell them on e-bay...starting bid starts at $5,000.
hard2grep
not rated yet Oct 15, 2011
Plug them straight up to your laptop to recharge or update them via WiFi. extra packages could come with the OS that make the possibilities endless. Are you listening Apple? ...
NotAsleep
not rated yet Oct 17, 2011
hard2grep, it would be hard2sell your idea for $5K a pop since a smartphone/wifi flying drone already exists:

http://ardrone.pa...one/usa/

and I'm sure there are a lot more out there