Feeds

Army to deploy jumping robots in Afghanistan

Sand Flea machine can leap 24 foot walls

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The US Army will be testing a new type of reconnaissance robot designed to jump over walls and through windows, without putting soldiers in the line of fire.

Dubbed the Sand Flea, the four wheeled device is about the size of a shoebox and weighs roughly ten pounds, and is capable of jumping up to 24 feet. The robot uses a piston built into its base, powered by an unspecified fuel oxidizer, to get airborne and can be aimed by changing the tilt angle and direction of thrust.

Sand Flea robot

The Sand Flea aims high

“In the form we’re currently building it does correct itself to land on the wheels as much as possible,” Jon Salton, distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, told The Register. “If it lands upside down you can drive it, but you can also use the tilting mechanism to get it the right way up.”

Robot reconnaissance is nothing new, but the Afghanistan theater poses particular problems. Many homes in the country are built with a high perimeter wall for security, and checking each compound is both tiring and very dangerous. The army has been using smaller, hand-deployed “throwbots,” but these have a limited range and can put the solder deploying them in the firing line.

The Sand Flea can instead be driven by a soldier with a laptop or handheld device, aimed and fired over a wall or through a window, and then driven around the target while the on-board camera scans the area for hostiles. Two robots are currently being assembled for deployment in the war zone, and another eight are in the construction phase.

One of the problems with designing the Sand Flea was impact damage, Saltron explained. The thrust up into the air is relatively easy to build for, but landing causes major mechanical stresses. The Sand Flea’s wheels have been designed so that they are as light as possible, to minimize the landing weight, while cushioning the impact as far as possible. Shock absorbers are also used inside the device to protect the electronics.

The Sand Flea is part of a growing recognition that smaller, custom-designed robotics are the way forward. While it is certainly possible to build bipedal robots, there is usually no need to, since there are better designs for a robot than simply mimicking the human or animal world.

“In general, at least in my opinion, smaller scale robots are going to continue to be the answer,” Saltron explained. “In robotics there’s a tendency among some to be too anthropomorphic. The whole realm of smaller robots will see the biggest growth.” ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.