Aka, "The Amazing Toss-Bot!"
I'm no stranger to military robots, but I'd never seen this one before: a tiny, two-wheeled contraption, trailing a camera on a wire, looking for all the world like a 2.5-pound dumbell. David Gustafson from Recon Robotics was showing off a couple of these little guys ("Recon Scouts," he calls them -- terrible name) at the Mock Riot in Moundsville, West Virginia, this week. After letting one bot charge for a few minutes, he underhanded it across the show room. It skittered to a halt. Then Gustafson grabbed a handheld controller with a tiny screen and drove the thing over the toes of a rather unimpressed young woman. It wasn't terribly fast and the camera was of the most basic type, but the bot seemed responsive and the ability to simply chuck the thing across the room was quite impressive.
The Recon Scout was developed by the University of Minnesota using Darpa money and based on Marine Corps requirements. According to Gustafson, they wanted the thing to be operated using just one hand -- and to be something that any private could learn to use in just ten seconds ... while under fire.
This little guy is tough: hardened to 1,600 Gs. "You could launch it out of a mortar!" Gustafson claims. But that kind of toughness makes fitting different sensors a major challenge. "The problem is finding commercial sensors that are both miniature and hardened." So for now it comes only with the little video camera.
Recon Robotics started selling the Recon Scout to law enforcement agencies in January and is eyeing the military market. One robot and a controller in their own container costs just $6,500: "Priced to be disposable," Gustafson crows.
Video coming soon, I promise.
David Axe, cross-posted at War Is Boring