The U.S. Army has purchased another
151 Talon UGV (unmanned ground vehicles), for $173,000 each. The U.S. military
has bought a thousand Talons since 2000, and another 200 are on order. The
Talon was first used in the Balkans, in 2000, to help deal with left over
munitions (that might explode unexpectedly.) In Iraq and Afghanistan, Talons
have been used in over 50,000 EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) missions,
usually roadside bombs.
There are several other UGV models, and over 6,000
have been shipped to the combat zone in the last six years. The Talon is
generally considered the top-of-the-line model. Basic weight is about 85
pounds, and it can carry up to 200 pounds of gear or cargo. Typical equipment
load is about 30 pounds, and usually includes a double jointed arm that can
grasp objects. Talon usually carries four cameras, and when using a wireless
data link, can be up to 1,600 meters from the operator.
With all this combat experience, there are now a
large selection of proven accessories for Talon. These include night cameras,
microphones, loudspeakers and even a sniffer, that can detect explosives via
analysis of chemical particles in the air. There is an armed version, but the
military is reluctant to put this one into service.
Talon is the fastest of its class, able to move at
up to 6.5 kilometers an hour (nearly two meters a second, a brisk walking
pace). It can travel underwater, up and down stairs, and across most types of
nasty terrain (muck, snow and the like). In normal operation, its batteries
last about eight hours.
There is a lightweight, scout version, that weighs
only 60 pounds, but has day/night vidcams, and the ability to just sit in one
place and watch for over 24 hours on a single battery charge. Talon has proved
that devices like this are useful on the battlefield, and their heavy use in
Iraq and Afghanistan have paved the way for many more combat robots to follow,
including some that operate on their own.