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U.S. Army Expands Micro-Robot Capabilities

ReconRobotics Inc., based in Edina, Minn., has recently received contracts from the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force to provide U.S. forces with several hundred of its Recon Scout® XT micro-robot kits.

The company, formed in 2006 to commercialize robotics technology developed at the University of Minnesota Distributed Robotics Laboratory under funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is a world leader in tactical micro-robot systems.

According to company representatives, nearly 2,000 of the company’s Recon Scout® Throwbot® systems have been deployed by the U.S. military and international friendly forces to date. With the systems primarily used to create “standoff” between warfighters and potential danger.

Recon Scout XT Front Infrared Lights

The front of the Recon Scout XT. Photo courtesy of Recon Robotics

They add that the company’s Recon Scout XT, which is just 8 inches long and weighs just 1.3 pounds, “can be deployed in five seconds and thrown up to 120 feet (36m).”

The system is equipped with large motors, powerful drivetrains and aggressive wheel traction to enable warfighters to conduct video reconnaissance in cluttered indoor environments as well as in outdoor landscapes of dirt, sand and rocks. Its infrared optical system automatically turns on when the ambient light is low.

Product descriptions note, “Like the warfighter’s ballistic vest, the miniature Recon Scout XT is a personal device that protects soldiers – in this case by maximizing their situational awareness and standoff distance. During dismounted operations, warfighters often encounter armed personnel or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The Recon Scout system mitigates risk to the warfighter by revealing the internal layout of the enclosed spaces, identifying potential IEDs and the fixing the location of (friendly, indigenous or enemy) personnel prior to making entry.”

The recent award announcement covered an additional 385 Recon Scout® XT micro-robot kits.

Also included in the recent contract were “a large number of Recon Scout SearchStickTM devices, which can be used by warfighters to convert any Recon Scout Throwbot® into a pole camera.”

Recon Robotics SearchStick

U.S. Army soldiers training with the Recon Scout® SearchStick™. Photo courtesy of Recon Robotics

The SearchStick pole has a collapsed length of 20.5″ (52cm) and can be extended to a length of 72″ (183cm). Operators grab the Recon Scout robot in the powered jaws of the pole and extend the pole to the necessary length. The robot then transmits live video of the environment to the operator control unit (OCU).

The SearchStick also allows an operator to quietly deploy the robot into an elevated or confined environment while maintaining a safe standoff distance, and later retrieve it when the reconnaissance has been completed.

Other operational scenarios focus on applications in elevated/confined spaces, including walled compounds, elevated windows, stairwells, attics, ventilation ducts, crawl spaces, tunnels and vehicle undercarriages.

“Nothing makes us more proud than designing and building products that help our U.S. Armed Forces safely and successfully complete their missions,” said Ernest Langdon, Director of Military Programs for ReconRobotics. “Our military sees these durable, easy-to-deploy micro-robots as a critical piece of gear for dismounted troops, not unlike their ballistic vests and helmets. Not only do these robots provide immediate visual reconnaissance that saves lives, but they do so without substantially increasing the carry burden of our dismounted fire teams.”

 

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...