Infantry: April 12, 2003


In Afghanistan and Iraq, the next generation of combat robots are being put to use. The most promising droid is PackBot. Small (27x16x7 inches) and light (41 pounds), its battery can last 1-4 hours depending on how much PackBot moves (top speed is 3.7 meters a second, about eight miles an hour) or uses some of its sensors. Two cameras are carried, one sends back pictures in color, the other will send back mostly black and white pictures in low light conditions. There are also microphones, and other sensors can easily be snapped into place. The basic PackBot contains lights for the cameras. Wireless computer networking is used to control Packbot, with a range of about 1200 feet. The tracked mobility system includes flippers to help get the droid over rubble, or to right itself if it falls. PackBot can be "thrown through a window", but is not really designed to survive every such use of that type. While infantrymen who have used PackBot so far like it, there is still need to be more robust and regularly survive being thrown through a window. PacBot can also work via a 1500 foot wire. Each droid costs about $40,000.


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