U.S. Army orders more PackBots

Along with another batch of the bomb-sniffing robots, the Army orders high-performance radios to retrofit existing machines.

Mark Rutherford
The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.
Mark Rutherford

The company that ate the robot market, iRobot, has just received an order from the U.S. Army for 40 more PackBots, which means that will soon be more than 1,000 of these robots on active duty around the world.

Units ordered include some equipped with the ICx Fido Explosives Detector. Fido allows an operator to detect explosive vapors and particulates from munitions or IEDs from a safe distance using a game-style controller.

The 510 model was also included. It can lift 30 pounds and scoot around at almost 6 mph, climbs stairs, roll over rubble, rocks, mud and snow on polymer tracks that use a patented flipper to stay right-side-up. All around it's one tough little SOB, as seen in the video below.

Plus, the Army has ordered 300 new high-performance radios to retrofit existing PackBots to increase the robot's operational range.

The Bots, plus spare parts and other equipment, will be delivered to the Army's Robotic Systems Joint Project Office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., by the end of next year. The contract is worth $8.8 million, bringing it to a total of $45 million in orders to date, according to the company.