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Tactical Robotics for 2014

Written by Stephenie Slahor

Applied Research Associates

www.ara-robotics.com

Applied Research Associates (ARA) offers a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) especially suited for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and search and rescue.  The Nighthawk/Micro UAV is a hand- or tube-launched aerial vehicle using GPS and an autopilot to assist in situational awareness and/or search and rescue. The Federal Aviation Administration now deems the unit “airworthy.” 

The Nighthawk has a range of about 6 miles (maximum 11,000-foot operating ceiling) and cruises at 25-40 mph, with a flight time of about 60 minutes. Weighing 1.9 pounds and having a 26-inch wingspan, it is useful for situations of search and rescue, disaster response, detention centers, terrain where roads are unreliable or non-existent, or fixed site security. It carries forward- and side-looking cameras and can also carry a side-looking thermal imager or other sensors. The craft rolls into a 6-inch tube for storage. No assembly is required prior to use. 

A ground station uses PC-based technology for real-time visual feedback and control.  Point and click waypoint navigation keeps operation easy. The preferred launch method in a fixed site is a tube launch and ARA’s TOWlaunch system can be mounted on a building so that personnel are not exposed to view by others. The Nighthawk can also be launched from a vehicle. When combined with ARA’s E-UGS, the Nighthawk can be automatically fed a grid coordinate and will launch to that location. 

 

iRobot

www.irobot.com

The company’s 110 FirstLook ®, 310 SUGV, 510 PackBot® and 710 Warrior ® are its headliners for first responders. The iRobot 110 FirstLook is small, lightweight and throwable to provide easy situational awareness, investigate confined spaces, and give persistent observation. Four built-in cameras observe from all sides. 

The unit has two-way audio communication, weighs 5 pounds, and is 10 inches long. It can survive 16-foot drops onto concrete and is waterproof to 3 feet. Designed to explore tight places, it can climb steps up to 7 inches tread height, overcome curbs and obstacles, turn in place, self-right if flipped over, and run about six hours and up to 3.4 mph. 

The iRobot 310 SUGV features a dexterous manipulator and wearable controller for dismounted mobile operations. It can enter areas too inaccessible or dangerous for people, and can climb stairs and overcome obstacles, all while accommodating a range of payloads and sensors. It weighs 29 pounds without payloads and can run up to 6.2 mph.  The wearable controller weighs 6 pounds. Batteries can run more than six hours (two batteries in the unit). 

The iRobot 510 PackBot neutralizes car bombs and other IEDs, screens vehicles-cargo-buildings-people for traces of explosives, and can search buildings, tunnels, sewers, or other routes/areas. It is useful for HazMat detection or checkpoint, vehicle or personnel inspections. The unit’s 4.9GHz mesh radio kit and multiple nodes can establish and relay communications even in radio-challenged environments. Its retro-traverse capabilities allow it to automatically retrace its approach path if communications are disrupted. 

The unit can automatically right if flipped over. It is modular, adaptable and expandable to traverse stairs, rubble and narrow passageways, runs up to 5.8 mph, and can be deployed by one person in a couple minutes. It relays real-time video, audio and sensors data.  The unit weighs about 24 pounds without batteries, and is 7 inches high by 16 inches wide. 

For large or heavy payloads, the company offers the configurable 710 Warrior, a unit suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Its strength and mobility allow it to carry payloads in excess of 150 pounds for such tasks as explosive ordnance disposal, remote detection, route clearance, reconnaissance, building clearance, breaching missions, and heavy lifting. It can be deployed in about one minute and has a runtime of 4– 10 hours, at a maximum speed of 8 mph. Battery installation and removal takes about one minute. The unit weighs about 365 pounds, or 500 pounds with the arm installed. 

 

Lithos Robotics

www.lithosrobotics.com

The TacBot is an all-weather robot that can be delivered, deployed and controlled by one person from a position of cover. It carries out reconnaissance using a boom-mounted 32X camera to stream to the command center from up to a mile line-of-sight (or farther with a Sentinel RSD acting as a digital repeater). It sends still photos and video playback and is a WiFi hotspot/digital radio repeater. An LED illuminator is built in and the unit works with other Sentinels or TacBot Remote Infiltrator units deployed by a robot or person. 

The robots are fully integrated with the company’s “CommandLink” series to share video and information among incident commanders, entry teams and scouts. The robot can be operated using a standard Windows-based laptop or Apple iPhone or iPad, using the free software. So, an operator in a tactical truck can control the robot just as easily as a SWAT team member in the stack. Multiple robots can interoperate on the same callout.  Operating range is up to 1 mile line-of-sight from a Windows computer, or 1,000 feet line-of-sight from an iPhone or iPad. 

 

ReconRobotics

www.reconrobotics.com

The Throwbot® XT with audio capabilities is a versatile and robust robot that is easily deployed by tactical operators. It weights 1.2 pounds and can be thrown up to 120 feet.  This personal sensor system is water and dust resistant and operates quietly at 22 decibels. An infrared optical system activates automatically in low light. 

The unit can be directed to move through a structure and transmit video and audio to the control unit for such work as locating suspects, confirming the presence of hostages, listening to conversations, or revealing the layout of rooms. The unit can be purchased without audio capability, but can later be enabled for listening. Up to three robots can be used in the environment at the same time when different transmitting frequencies are used. The unit can run on flat terrain up to 60 minutes. 

The Recon Scout® IR can “see” in complete darkness. Lightweight and affordable, it can be thrown through a window or doorway to move through an environment and transmit real-time video to a video screen or command post.   

The Recon Scout ® Throwbot® LE is an affordable police robot that weighs 1.1 pounds. It can survive horizontal throws of 50 feet and drops of 15 feet. Operating at 20 decibels, it can transmit video up to 100 feet indoors and up to 300 feet outdoors, providing clear video even in low-light environments. The unit can be converted into a versatile pole camera.  

The Recon Scout® XL is a micro-robot for varied terrain, providing both video and audio reconnaissance. It can climb over 4-inch obstacles, but weighs only 1.4 pounds. The unit can be thrown 30 feet and dropped 15 feet. It features infrared optics and water resistance. 

The Recon Scout® UVI robot visually inspects undercarriages of vehicles and can operate in low light. Clear video is transmitted up to 1,000 feet to a command station, or 300 feet to a handheld control unit. It has auto-focus optics and a 60-degree field of view, and provides a direct, not reflected, view of the vehicle undercarriage.

 

Robotex

www.robotex.com

The Avatar III Security Robot can be used for long-range surveillance, even hundreds of miles away from a central operations center. The robot’s capabilities use existing WiFi networks, and can recharge at remote docking stations, using existing power outlets.  Control software installs on a PC or Mac and uses a handheld controller for patrol and reconnaissance. Multiple incidents, simultaneous patrols, and remote communications can all be facilitated. 

Stair-climbing ability, built-in IR night vision, 360-degree pan-tilt-zoom cameras, and a lightweight (25 pounds) and portable size (24.41 inches by 15.35, by 6.14 height) provide an efficient way to patrol routes, respond to alarms or inspect incidents through manual control from a central location. 

The Avatar II Tactical Robot is a rugged, but easy-to-use unit with an up to five-hour battery life and 300-meter operating range. It weighs 25 pounds and is 24 x 15 x 6 inches. Using wireless video and audio transmission, the unit has two-way audio functionality, video and audio recording capability, and live video and audio with automatic IR. 

The unit can self-right itself if flipped over, climb stairs, and can maneuver easily with its slightly off-parallel tracking. It is especially suited for tactical callouts, high-risk warrants or domestic disturbance response, remote communication with hostile subjects, searching for missing persons, investigating suspicious packages or vehicles, and monitoring a large perimeter for hazards or hazardous fume/materials detection. 

 

SuperDroid Robots

www.sdrobots.com

The company manufactures a wide range of tactical and surveillance robots. The units can be customizable, and the company can also build from scratch because it designs, builds, tests and supports its products under “one roof” at its North Carolina facility. Its compact surveillance robots include the MLT Complete Surveillance Robot that weighs less than 8 pounds and is drop resistant up to 10 feet. A throwable robot, it has a flipper arm stabilizer to climb over objects up to 10 inches high. The unit comes with a matching remote and is weather resistant. An IR camera in the nose of the robot displays a color image with ambient light.

The UM4 Surveillance Robot weighs 14 pounds and features four wheels that are driven by independent gear motors. It is a completely enclosed chassis integrated with a pan and tilt camera system. Video is displayed real time on an included, 7-inch-wide color LCD screen. 

The mid-sized robots include the LT2 and LT2-F robots for surveillance. They include a custom remote, a front-tilt camera, and a battery charging station. The LT2 is capable of climbing “normal” stairs and obstacles, while the LT2-F can tackle more unconventional stairs or obstacles. The LT2 can be upgraded with an arm. Both units are weather resistant.

The company’s heavy-duty/large robots include the HD2-S treaded robot, and the HD2-S with a multi-axis arm. The units feature aircraft-grade aluminum and custom treads with aggressive, all-terrain patterning. A heavy-duty frame serves as a roll cage. Included with these robots is a choice of controller, battery charger and complete assembly and testing. 

 

Surveillance Grid

www.surveillancegrid.com

The Q-4 drone is unlike other drones, in being capable of working 24 hours a day and operating at speeds over 45 mph even in all but the most extreme weather conditions. No piloting is needed because the drone requires no operator to manage it. The drone can recognize objects and work with visual data received during a mission. Lightweight and aerodynamic, the Q-4 has a simple design so that most repairs can be done without the need for complicated work or high cost. 

The unit is protected from radio interference and operates at low noise levels. In most cases of collision, the robot is not affected because of its innovative protective shell housing. The Q-4 is capable of incorporating Artificial Intelligence to enhance its efficiency in detecting a threat or investigating an alarm. The drone can fly missions in difficult-to-reach locations such as rooftops, pipelines, electrical networks, livestock, borders, recreation areas, etc. 

A simple ground station can be used for recharging and downloading. User interface is simplified. The Q-4 can automatically take off and begin flying using pre-determined points. It can be configured with a camera system for panoramic video, or can find specific objects on which to focus, using a second high-definition camera with zoom capability. It analyzes video and locates motions, sends video to the control center, measures distance to objects and their speed, and can even signal an alarm or make an audio announcement.

 

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at drss12@msn.com.


Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2014

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