Infantry: August 17, 2005


American infantrymen in Iraq have another combat droid to take the point (the lead man for advancing into dangerous territory). MARCBOT (Multi Function Agile Remote-Controlled Robot), while intended for running into houses, or around corners, to see if the enemy is lying in wait, has found itself most in demand for helping spot IEDs (roadside bombs). Most IEDs are discovered, but American troops or Iraqi police do it via constant patrolling of roads. MARCBOT, at $8,000 each, was meant to be a cheaper alternative to the more expensive (often five times, or more) battlefield robots. Based on commercial (as in hobby type radio controlled vehicles) technology, MARCBOT is a rugged, four wheeled, battery operated, radio controlled vehicle with a camera and moveable arm on it. This seemed perfect for checking out suspicious items on the highway. Normally, the troops would either wait for the more expensive bots to show up (with their EOD, explosive ordnance disposal, handlers), or risk life and limb poking the suspicious object, or taking a few shots at it. So 30 of the MARCBOTs were sent to Iraq, for use by troops patrolling for IEDs. The troops loved it. MARCBOT was easy to use, could be controlled from over a hundred meters away and its movable arm enabled it to poke and probe as suspicious objects. Many IEDs were being found using MARCBOTs, although at least one was lost when the terrorists set off the bomb the robot was examining. MARCBOT was so popular, and cheap, that 300 hundred more were ordered.

The only problem with MARCBOT was the vulnerability of the arm, and all the complex equipment associated with it (electric motors, camera). The troops tend to toss the MARCBOT into the back of a hummer or truck, without realizing how vulnerable some of the robots components are to damage. Other, more expensive, combat robots, are built to be tossed around. But MARCBOT has a much lower price partly because it has not been ruggedized.


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