Feeds

Army to deploy jumping robots in Afghanistan

Sand Flea machine can leap 24 foot walls

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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.” ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.