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The Military Robotics Technology

Marine Corps Wants a Throwable Robot 270

coondoggie writes "The US Marine Corps 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. Marine commanders are demanding ever lighter robots so that troops don't have to offload critical equipment from their rucksacks to accommodate them."
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Marine Corps Wants a Throwable Robot

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  • Good idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr_Ken ( 1163339 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:15PM (#29127767) Journal
    Make explode too, eh?
  • Weeble? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:15PM (#29127775) Journal

    How about a large Weeble [] with encrypted wifi, cameras and microphones pointing in each direction, including up? Toss it in, monitor it remotely via wifi.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:22PM (#29127833)

    Actually sounds more like those spider robots from "Minority report." []

    Although it doesn't sound like they really want a "robot," they just want something they can throw into a room and see what's in there. Just put a durable webcam in a clear hampster ball. Or if you do need it to move around after thrown, put the webcam on a small RC car.

    Marines: I expect a good chunk of your R&D budget for this design.

  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:25PM (#29127867) Journal

    Sure, 10 lbs is heavy, but this would be a first version. That, and the summary says 10 lbs and under. 10 lbs is probably the maximum weight they asked for in their request for proposals.

    On the other hand, imagine if they got it down to the size of a tennis ball or golf ball, and it only weighed a couple ounces. You could throw several into an area simultaneously, or throw them at night... I feel like I've seen several sci-fi or action films where the protagonist rolls a little ball with a camera around a corner.

  • Syntax error (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:34PM (#29127943) Homepage Journal

    You fool! You have two second laws, and one of them's self-referential! No wonder the robots went mad and started killing people!

  • by jmp_nyc ( 895404 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:34PM (#29127945)
    First off, the summary says that the military keeps requesting progressively smaller robots. This one might be 10 lbs, but there may be a 5 lbs version in the future.

    As for usefulness, it depends on the application, and how mobile the robot is once it hits the ground. For example, in a firefight situation, a robot might be able to move through the crossfire (perhaps even taking a couple of bullets in the process) in a way that a human could not.

    Personally, given that urban house-to-house combat is much more prevalent these days, I'd be more interested in a robot that would have no trouble climbing stairs and turning doorknobs. Better to send a robot into booby-traps than humans...
  • by Anonymous Cowar ( 1608865 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:47PM (#29128031)
    beats the living crap out of peeking your head around the corner and hoping nobody shoots you or blindly charging through rooms hoping you don't set off an explosive trap. Pro-tip: the taliban, terrorists, socialists, communists, or liberal media don't have a trip-mine that can respond to a robot being chucked into the middle of the room if the robot doesn't bounce into the explosive device or any triplines.

    Supposing that there are people in the room, they won't know exactly where you are. You might be able to guess at their general vicinity or point of entry, but if you were sitting on your computer, your couch or having a conversation, distracted and not expecting something to come crashing through your window, door, over your wall, or whatever, and you only see the thing landing and bouncing, I'd wager every dollar I have that you couldn't a) guess within 5 feet of where the object came from or b) react to it before your door came crashing down and marines come charging through your door.

    They train the armed forces personnel how to chuck things. Like they train marines how to chuck a grenade such that it spends so much time bouncing off of walls and skating across the floor that by the time you can pick it up, it will go off in your face before you can throw it back.

    I'm sure they'll come up with something that won't land in the middle of a room and sit there for 2 minutes so that the operator can get a front row seat to the robots destruction and the following retaliation.
  • Re:Weeble? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:55PM (#29128091)

    Its called the Dragon Egg

  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:59PM (#29128123)

    A lot you know about counter insurgency. First of all they generally already know you are there especially if they are enemy combatants. If you approached with a lot of stealth, you wouldn't use a throwable robot if you had one that could scoot in on the ground. You could even just use fiber and peak around. Special ops guys might have that but Marines and regular soldiers aren't usually that stealthy.

    Throwing means that you have an obstacle or barrier of some sort. Now, if you are one side of a wall at night and you hear voices on the other do you peak around and say "howdy!"? If they are bad guys are even a farmer with a weapon who is worried about bandits you'll get your head blown off. On the other hand if you just fling some grenades over then you might kill a room full of kids. If you throw a robot in and they are not combatants you'll find out without killing anyone. If they are combatants and throw the robot back then you just toss some grenades in return. They'd probably hope you didn't know for sure they were there so the could surprise you so they might stay very still and quiet and hope they are not detected.

    The other situation is that no one is there but the place is booby trapped. Your robot may spot them or even set them off. That's much better than you or your buddies accidently setting them off. Just knowing that no one is in the room can let you to decide to bypass it or to focus on booby traps also being concerned about someone hiding there.

  • Re:Syntax error (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:12PM (#29128205) Homepage Journal

    Do not feed the elephant.

  • Re:Weeble? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:53PM (#29128499)

    Something like this...????

    I have never posted on here but always lurk so apologies for the AC post. I was the lead engineer for this little gadget. Here are some details:

    The system came with 2 or 4 Dragon Eggs, each on a different channel and 1 video receiver. The band was the 900MHz ISM band. The transmit power was 1W so it was not FCC compliant( so outside US or military sales only, sorry SWAT). It transmitted the 4 views( B&W, NTSC, 384x278pixels ) simultaneously to the receiver so there was 4 views on the receiver for each channel. There was an internal digital compass that displayed each camera view's direction. On this model there was NO sound. It was powered by an internal lithium-polymer battery pack and recharged off of 5V( there was even a USB charger ). It weighed about 1Kg and was spec'ed to withstand 20 consecutive 2 meter drops on to concrete AND 20 tosses into a second-story window( concrete floor ) from across the street. The body was made of machined polycarbonate( LEXAN ) and the bottom counter-weight that made it always stand upright was tungsten and this "puck" was about 1/2 the weight. Sadly, last I heard from fellow ex-co-workers, it was discontinued for the final time( it had been revived about 5 other times in past ). There were a bunch of other cool little features, like USB connectivity for firmware upgrades, onscreen display of battery life, onscreen display of "health" and to turn in on, you pulled the "pin" and tossed it.

  • by awtbfb ( 586638 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:55PM (#29128523)

    Marines: I expect a good chunk of your R&D budget for this design.

    The base R&D has been done. They clearly say in the article they want something like Dragon Runner [] with more capability.

    I know a bit about Dragon Runner. Trust me, it's seriously cool and very well engineered. If you don't believe it has the "throwable" part down, watch this movie [].

  • Re:Good idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:58PM (#29128541) Homepage

    Sure, why not? Spider or ant configuration, they could jump on its target and self-destruct, taking him/her with it. Now imagine them working as a pack together guided by GPS and infrared sight. Spooky!

  • by Vectronic ( 1221470 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:43PM (#29128855)

    Early/Mid 90's there were RC cars that were moderately popular, where the body height was smaller than the wheel height, so it looked like:
    O=O (my Google skills failed me)
    so if it landed upside down, it was exactly the same as right-side up, if it lands on it's edge, you can either have rounded/ball-like rims, or just give it a bit of throttle and it'll right itself again... there's also the tri-wheel designs too... which allows for a larger body size, but roughly the same over-all size, both came in tracked, and wheeled versions.

    $79 RC Car
    $89 Wireless Web Cam with Night Vision & Audio (Link [])

    Couple hours modding/reinforcing... call it $250

    You could also go for a more simplistic design, 2 wheels, basically just a powered axel with wheels... kinda like a small Segway without the handlebars and shit, that way you could even modify some sort of rocket/grenade launcher that was large enough instead of tossing it by hand...

  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @01:16AM (#29129465) Homepage Journal
    No real joke intended here. But just an idea-- robotic snakes. The snake form factor does a lot better on rough terrain than anything based on wheels. If it is built to look like a real snake, it can also frighten enemies beyond belief. They can also be designed to be thrown up on telephone / power lines, hook on, then travel along the line while sending video back to the thrower. Power lines are a great vantage point.

  • by tubapro12 ( 896596 ) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @02:32AM (#29129815) Journal
    That's about the same problems encountered by the Israeli's throwable robotic eyeball [].

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