Robot with attitude: Armed with shotgun, WMD sensor

Special to World
Monday, August 16, 2004

The U.S. Army has been testing a robot armed with a pump-action shotgun for counter-insurgency missions. The unit has already seen action in Iraq.

In combat, the PackBot can be equipped with a pump-action shotgun system capable of recycling and remote firing. A soldier controls the robot through a joystick and receives streaming video from a front-mounted camera transmitting to a personal digital assistant, or PDA.

The PackBot also comes equipped with a nuclear, biological and chemical sensor package capable of detecting a wide range of NBC contaminants. An infrared camera lens enables the robot to operate in low-light conditions as well.

The PackBot has been tested by the 29th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. as part of the unit's new experimental force platoon. The PackBot weighs about 40 pounds and is propelled by heavy-duty tracks. It has rotating, tracked arms that assist in propulsion and negotiation of obstacles.

The robot was introduced in Iraq in late June, officials said. The Army has also deployed advanced robot control systems with the 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan.

[On Aug. 8, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq announced that Iraqi security forces received "massive shipments" of weapons and material over the past week. The shipments for the Iraqi military and National Guard were said to have included more than 2,500 vehicles, 600 radios, 55,000 weapons and 25,000 pieces of body armor.]

Officials said one use of the PackBot has been to transport up to 30 pounds of munitions or medical supplies to personnel trapped under fire. The robot reportedly costs $42,000.

The PackBot has been operated through an advanced robot control system, officials said. The system allows for the remote control of different types of unmanned robotics elements and expands the communication capabilities from firing teams to higher echelons.

PackBot is manufactured by iRobot Corp. in Burlington, Mass.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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