Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Technology

They Rode In With Combat Bots

Troops are testing a robot that can scope out the danger around corners.

By Susan KruglinskiNovember 25, 2004 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

It is no secret that American troops in Iraq routinely use unmanned air vehicles—flying robots, in essence—in reconnaissance and combat missions. Far less well known are robots that operate on the ground, including a new one that can look for danger around corners or in areas under heavy fire and can be carried around in a soldier’s backpack.

The robot is known as a Dragon Runner and was designed by Hagen Schempf of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The device, which is currently undergoing classified tests in Iraq, is about the size and weight of a house cat and, like a feline, is designed to always land on its feet. It can be tossed through a glass window three stories up and hit the ground running, upside down, or down side up, at more than 20 miles per hour.

A handheld controller, which lets soldiers remotely send Dragon Runner out as an advance scout, vibrates when the robot’s motion or audio sensors are triggered. An onboard color video camera with infrared illumination can function with nothing more than moonlight.

A larger, somewhat simpler device, called PackBot, is already in use in Iraq and Afghanistan; scores of other military robots are now under development. “But there’s nothing like Dragon Runner in terms of its combined features,” Schempf says. Dragon Runner also has a fairly low price tag: So far, its entire development program has cost less than $3 million.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In