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Military father gets robotics contract

UGV robot for dismantling road-side bombs, among other things, was inspired by son's death due partially to lack of equipment.

The LandShark UGV robot.
Black-I Robotics

A robotics company founded by a father who lost his son to the Iraq war has garnered an $800,000 contract with the U.S. military.

Black-I Robotics makes an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) called the LandShark that can be used as a platform to disable bombs, provide reconnaissance, and carry wounded soldiers from the battlefield. The LandShark robot can also be used at home in the U.S. as an aid to first responders for search-and-rescue, firefighting, Hazmat, and SWAT efforts, and even in agriculture, according to a company statement.

"We believe UGV chassis should be thought of as Jeeps which can then be modified for specific missions," the company said in a statement.

The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) , a group funded mostly by the Department of Defense, awarded a contract to Black-I Robotics on July 1 to provide two working versions of the robot to be tested out by the military and one version to be used in a Homeland Security capacity at Logan Airport in Boston, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The Tyngsboro, Mass.-based company was founded in 2006 by Brian Hart, whose son, John Daniel Hart, was killed in an unarmored Humvee near Taza, Iraq, in 2003.

The tragedy catalyzed Hart to speak out publicly about the lack of proper body armor and other defensive equipment available to military men and women in Iraq. Since 2005, Hart has also maintained a blog chronicling the failures and successes of the Iraq war, as well as injustices going on elsewhere in the world.

But he took his concern one step further by trying to develop a robust robot that can be made cheaply and thus be provided to more soldiers for protection.

To that end, Black-I Robotics uses some open-source software and off-the-shelf hardware in conjunction with its own proprietary technology. The different modules that customers can have added to the LandShark platform include plows, radios, arms, and trailers (demonstrated in this company video).