Posts Tagged ‘military’


The Grenade-Bot: Coming Through a Window Near You

August 1, 2011

The Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), part of Japan’s Ministry of Defense and roughly an analogue to America’s DARPA, recently released information on one of the new devices being worked on at their Advanced Technology Development Center:  the 手投げ式偵察ロボット, or Thrown Reconnaissance Robot.

About the size and shape of a hand grenade, this device is designed to be thrown into buildings that may be too dangerous for soldiers to investigate themselves. Once inside, the device opens up to reveal a small camera, which can then relay what it sees to the soldiers waiting outside using a hand-held viewer. The robot can also be driven and steered throughout the building (though stairs will likely pose a problem), while the camera continues to transmit a stable image.

Left: The remote viewscreen; Center: the robot in its carried and thrown state; Right: the robot in its traveling state, with drive wheels extended and camera exposed.

The test video below shows how well it can steer around obstacles and maintain a clear, steady camera image. [Note: the audio in this video is mostly static, so I recommend turning the sound off.]

According to TRDI, the concept behind this design is to develop robots that are compact and lightweight enough that soldiers can carry them as part of their standard equipment. I would imagine that making them sturdy and reliable enough to handle being thrown around would also greatly improve the battlefield utility of future robot designs.



A Look at Japan’s New Military Hover-orb

June 14, 2011

Science fiction films have frequently made use of robots that float down hallways or waft through the sky as they chase down the heroes. Aside from the fact that it’s simply easier for the FX team to hang a metal ball on a piece of fishing line, there’s something undeniably fascinating about a machine moving in a way that common sense tells us is impossible.

So it’s with pleasure that I introduce the newest addition to Japan Self-Defense Force’s aerial squadrons:

At just 42cm wide and weighing 350 grams (less than a pound), the orb can hover, maneuver in any direction, and reach speeds of up to 60kph, giving it great potential as a reconnaissance and surveillance tool. What’s more, it’s built entirely from off-the-shelf parts available to hobbyists in Akihabara for an estimated price tag of $1,300.

TV Tokyo recently featured the device and its developers on their “Trend Tamago” show, highlighting it’s maneuverability and unique design.

The “Top Gun” music was a nice touch.

As you can see, its small size and hovering capability allow it to handle tight spaces, such as avoiding telephone lines, flying through windows and going up staircases. The advantage of its spherical shape (According to the developers, the compact flier is the the only one of its kind to use such a design) becomes evident at the 1:10 mark: rather than requiring a careful approach over flat ground for landings, the flier can simply come in low and roll to a stop.

The propeller can also be used to roll the bot along the ground

The flier has already been fitted with a camera, making it useful for police or soldiers scouting out buildings or urban areas, rescue workers looking for survivors in wide areas of rubble (such as after a tsunami) or, as seen in the Trend Tamago report, chasing women through hallways.

One of the downsides is that its flight duration is currently only about 8 minutes. It’s also not all that inconspicuous or stealthy. It’s also not yet capable of self-controlled flight, instead relying on a human to pilot it via remote control, so it’s not technically a robot or drone as many have been calling it (guilty!). Still, it’s an interesting new design for a refreshing low price tag, and and should act as a springboard for a lot of other innovators.

Just so long as I don’t catch one hanging outside my window.