The U.S. Army is shipping 18 armed Talon 2 UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) to Iraq in the next few months. The 120 pound robots are equipped with an mechanical arm designed to use weapons ranging from a light machine-gun to a rocket launcher. The UAV can also be for unarmed scouting. The Talon 2 is small (34 inches long, 22 wide and 30 tall.) The earlier Talon 1 weighed 85 pounds and also carried day and night video cams, plus microphones and other sensors (chemical, radiological, Etc.) Talon will right itself if knocked over and can climb over most obstacles because it runs on tracks. The Talons are waterproof, and can be driven under water. Thats how one was retrieved when it fell into an Iraqi river. Max speed is about six feet a second (6.5 kilometers an hour, or a fast walk). The operator, using a CRT or VR (virtual reality) goggles, could be as far as 1,000 meters from the robot. The control station weighs 33 pounds and is carried in a small suitcase. Batteries provide up to 12 hours of operation, depending on how much the Talon is moved around. If put into sleep mode, with just a few sensors operating, the battery will last up to seven days. Talon 2 is intended mainly for armed reconnaissance and guard duty. The operator can move a Talon 2 out into a dangerous (for a human soldier) position and use the vidcams and other sensors to keep on eye (ear, etc) on things. If an approaching enemy is detected, the Talon 2 can use its weapon to take care of it. Or human troops can be called in to double check. In 2003, 18 Talon 1s were sent to Iraq, where they handled roadside bombs and the like. These UGVs were used 20,000 times (often in missions that took less than half an hour). Talon 2s cost $230,000 each, although that cost will go down to $170,000 for the second 18, and even lower if the UGVs are mass produced.
Several different models of combat robots have been used by infantry in Iraq, and the troops generally like the droids. The robots can do the most dangerous jobs, like being first into a cave, dark room or an area thought to be boobytrapped. The lighter droids are called "tossable" robots, because they are light enough, and sturdy enough, to be tossed through a window, right itself, and then use its sensors to check out the situation. Being the "point man" (the guy in the lead) is the most dangerous job for an infantryman, and having a robot to help with that duty is appreciated by the grunts.