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Army building robotic tentacles to handle IEDs

The military is developing snakelike tentacle robots to manipulate IEDs and take part in search and rescue missions. Cobra Commander would be pleased.

The Robotic Tentacle Manipulator
The Robotic Tentacle Manipulator
T'Jae Gibson

The U.S. Army is developing snakelike robots for battlefield action that could include search and rescue missions, opening doors, and handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a bid to keep troops out of harm's way.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's prototype Robotic Tentacle Manipulator is an array of three snake robots on a circular base. The snake bots form a hand of sorts.

While it doesn't look like much now, the Army says the device is scalable and could be deployed in various sizes and configurations, giving it maximum flexibility. It could be installed on iRobot's Warrior military bots and relay video and sensor data about suspicious objects to soldiers controlling it from a distance via laptop.

Equipped with light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and 3D imaging capabilities, the snake bots could crawl or swim into narrow spaces to investigate targets at close range.

The sensitivity of their manipulators is such that they may be able to open doors, as well as handle and inspect an IED without setting it off, according to researcher Derek Scherer of the lab's Vehicle Technology Directorate.

The Tentacle Manipulator comes out of collaborative research into snake robots at Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, which has produced snaky bots that can crawl up tubes by moving inside or around them. The idea is that they could use drainpipes for covert surveillance.

Labs around the world are working on snake bots for civilian and military purposes. The Israeli army is refining a six-foot-long camouflaged robot serpent with a camera eye. It could be sent to spy on enemies and plant explosives.

Military snake robots. Is there a shadowy force behind this trend? Oh I don't know, someone like Cobra Commander?