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Robotics United States

DARPA to Raise Robot LANdroid Army 127

Banekartr writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to develop a fleet of robots that soldiers can deploy in urban combat settings as they move through houses and along streets. The program, dubbed LANdroid, envisions miniature autonomous drones that can form a network capable of relaying radio traffic in a setting often considered challenging for communications equipment. According to a notional image of a LANdroid included in a DARPA pamphlet, each robot will be about the size of a deck of cards, and must be rugged, lightweight and able to operate for seven to 14 days, the agency said. Demand for technologies to improve the military's ability to fight in urban settings has increased in recent years because many of the operations in Iraq take place in Baghdad and other Iraqi metropolitan settings. DARPA officials will provide additional information about the program during a July 6 industry day."
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DARPA to Raise Robot LANdroid Army

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  • I can't wait (Score:3, Interesting)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:27AM (#19580591) Journal
    I can't wait for the civilian version - I could use a bunch of Wifi routers with tracks scurrying round my house making sure I never get into a weak signal area.

    As long as I could turn them off at night that is.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:00PM (#19581305) Homepage Journal
    Agree completely. Having it move around seems stupid, unless it has some sort of other purpose besides what's being disclosed. (Anyone remember the little slow-crawling bombs from Total Annihilation?) I think they're just there for the "wow" (or perhaps "WTF") factor.

    Seems like, if you had enough money to spend on the design, you could make a wifi (or similar UHF/microwave) repeater that was really tiny. Use custom ASICs, and I bet you could get something that was less than an inch in diameter and a few inches long, including batteries. Harden them appropriately, and you could drop them from planes over a target area, and even if you took substantial losses, would still have a functioning mesh network on the ground.

    What you really want isn't a miniature tank with a Wifi AP strapped to it, what you want is an overgrown self-powered RFID tag with transmit/receive and basic routing capabilities.
  • Re:To Serve Man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:11PM (#19581543) Homepage Journal

    AKAImBatman would know more, if he's reading...

    At your service. I saw the bat-signal and came a'running. ;-)

    Being military, they'll probably use RTGs to charge capacitors.

    It would be nice, but I doubt it. RTGs are still incredibly expensive and wouldn't be used on something throw-away like this. In fact, the military as a whole tends to shy away from nuclear technology unless it's a bomb. The only reason why NASA still uses RTGs in the face of public protests is because nothing else will work. (Spacecraft live and die by the power available to them. Nuclear is not just an option, it's a requirement for extended space travel. People are going to need to accept that if we ever want to push out into space.)

    More likely the military will look into using fuel cells or microgenerators to power these little buggers. For about the same space as it would cost to pack a couple of LIon batteries, the engineers could stick an alcohol fuel tank & (power cell | micro-gas turbine) with many time the energy density. That would allow the robots to meet or exceed the 7-14 day life expectancy.

    Here's an example of just such a fuel cell: []

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford