Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/03/yarr_2_d_2_robot_pirate/

Robot pirate invented in USA: 'Yarr-2 D-2'?

'Marsupial' shot-bot has one eye, clambers up ships' sides

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 3rd May 2011 12:34 GMT

An American firm has developed a cunning, beercan-sized robot which can be shot out of a gun, stick to the side of a ship magnetically, and then climb up the ship's side in the fashion of a pirate with a knife or cutlass between his teeth.

Developers Recon Robotics insist that the droid buccaneer is actually intended for anti-pirate operations in which the robot boarding party would only be used against ships which had previously been captured by swashbuckling seaborne freebooters.

The new pirate-punisher spy droid is to be developed from the firm's well-known "Throwbot", designed to be hurled through windows, over walls etc and then trundle about spying out the situation using its infrared see-in-the-dark camera – whose imagery is relayed back to the operator's handset. Regular Throwbots have already been ordered by the US Army, and by the famous yet secretive US Navy SEAL special-ops frogman-commandos.

"We believe that this micro-robot platform could help mitigate maritime piracy threats and protect the lives of naval personnel and anti-piracy teams," says Alan Bignall, ReconRobotics head honcho. "We hope to ... further develop this robot and quickly bring it and the marsupial robot deployment system to market. In the future this system might also include other payloads and sensors which would increase its versatility and expand its mission profile."

According to the company the enhanced maritime Throwbot will not be enhanced only by the fitment of magnetic climbing wheels:

The marsupial robot deployment system ... enables an operator of a large robot to automatically transport and deploy a smaller robot downrange using a customized, ejectable sabot. This system could be particularly useful in reconnaissance, [bomb disposal] and [Hazardous materials] applications.

A "sabot" in this sense means a housing or case designed to let something be shot out of a gun or launcher. The sabot then usually falls off to let the something fly free. The complete system would seem to involve a pirate Throwbot being shot out of a small gun, cannon or similar mounted aboard a larger recce robot such as a Fire Scout droid-chopper or perhaps an unmanned boat. Having adhered magnetically to the target vessel's side or upper works, the small probe machine could then prowl about and find out the location of any pirates, hostaged crew members etc.

It would also, of course, be pretty useful to just about anyone planning to storm a ship, even to pirates themselves. Pirates actually carry out many more boardings than anti-pirate forces do, so they might in fact represent a bigger market – particularly as more shipping companies are putting armed security guards aboard vessels transiting near the buccaneer coasts of the Horn of Africa.

On the other hand, Recon Robotics are developing the new marsupial ship-scrambling shot-bot in cooperation with the US Navy's boffinry labs, so maybe not.

These considerations aside, for the moment the robot remains officially nameless. We would naturally suggest that it should be called "Yarr-2 D-2" or similar. ®