Army looks to iRobot for lightweight throwable robots for battlefield situational awareness

WARREN, Mich., 4 March 2013. U.S. Army officials are ordering a five-pound throwable unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to provide infantrymen with hasty situational awareness, persistent observation, and the ability to investigate confined spaces on the battlefield.

The Army Contracting Command in Warren, Mich., awarded a $14.4 million contract late last week to iRobot Corp. in Bedford, Mass., for the FirstLook throwable robot -- a light, small UGV that fits in an infantryman's standard backpack.

The FirstLook small unmanned vehicle is for infantry and special operations missions such as building clearing, raids, and other close-in scenarios. The throwable robot is 10 inches long, nine inches wide, and four inches tall.

One of the FirstLook UGV's most attractive qualities is the ability for infantrymen to throw the robot into potentially dangerous areas, such as through windows, up staircases, and into caves and culverts, to gauge on-scene threats quickly.

The tracked FirstLook UGV can move at speeds as fast as 3.4 miles per hour, has line-of-sight digital radio communications, modular interfaces, four built-in cameras on the robot's front-, rear-, and sideways-facing surfaces.

The UGV offers infrared illumination, and can operate for more than six hours on one battery charge. Optional payloads include specialized cameras, thermal imagers, and chemical and biological agent detectors.

The robot can be submerged in water three feet deep for as long as one minute without ill effects, and operates in temperatures from -20 to 55 degrees Celsius.

The FirstLook UGV operator control unit is 4.3 inches long, 9 inches wide, and 1.8 inches high, excluding its collapsible antenna. The control unit weighs two pounds, and has a five-inch liquid crystal display with 800-by-480-pixel resolution.

The contract to iRobot includes spare part kids and robot accessories. The company will do the work in Bedford, Mass., and should be finished by next month.

For more information contact iRobot online at www.irobot.com, or the Army Contracting Command at www.army.mil/acc.

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