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iRobot unveils sniper detector

The robot maker equips its PackBot combat device with gear to help soldiers find enemy marksmen. Photo: Robotic sniper detector

With a new sensor system, iRobot aims to help soldiers locate enemy snipers.

On Monday, the company announced a prototype system designed to pinpoint incoming rounds from rifles and mortars, and also to provide surveillance and targeting capabilities. The remote-controlled gear, named Redowl (short for "robot enhanced detection outpost with lasers), is designed to work with iRobot's PackBot combat device.

Redowl

The PackBot is a robot small enough to be carried by a single soldier. It has already done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Redowl features a laser pointer and illuminator, an acoustic localizer and classifier, a thermal imager, GPS (Global Positioning System), an infrared and daylight camera, and two wide-angle cameras. iRobot, which also makes the Roomba household vacuum robot, developed the Redowl system in conjunction with the Photonics Center at Boston University.

In field tests, the PackBot-Redowl combination had a success rate of 94 percent in locating the source of rounds fired from 9mm pistols, and M-16 and AK-rifles, at a range of more than 100 meters, the company said.

"Snipers have had the advantage of being effectively invisible--making them a deadly threat on the battlefield and in urban settings," retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, general manager of iRobot's government and industrial robots unit, said in a statement. Redowl "is a mobile system, which means snipers can run but they cannot hide anymore."