Israeli walk-and-fly Rooster robot aids disaster relief


Autonomous robots, by contrast, can take small decisions on their own and solve problems. “Autonomous robots will become the standard for smart manufacturing in the next 20 years,” Bustan adds.

It started with a DIY robot

RoboTiCan launched in 2011 when three students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s robotics lab wanted to work with the open-source programming language ROS – it stands for “robot operating system” – but couldn’t afford the robot on which to run the code.

Autonomous robots with four wheels and a full kit of sensors – 3D cameras, ultrasonic sensors for distance, pulsed laser LiDAR – can run up to $120,000 a piece, Bustan tells ISRAEL21c. “The price tags were ridiculous. So, the company’s founders decided to build one of their own. They were able to get the price down to around $20,000.”

They sold their homemade robot to research units within Ben-Gurion and then to other universities that were also researching autonomous robotics.

The business grew and the founders decided to expand to the private sector. The Israeli Ministry of Defense is a client as are a few “big customers that want to deploy a fleet of service robots,” Bustan says, without naming names.

Rooster, the most recent addition to the RoboTiCan fleet, came out of stealth in October at the Nextech 2017 conference in Beersheva, where RoboTiCan happens to be based.

That announcement led to more demand than the company currently can deliver. “We have many countries asking about the product,” including Mexico, Israel and the UK, says Bustan.

The Israeli Army’s Home Front Command had the Rooster in their toolkit when they flew to Mexico to help with post-earthquake efforts in September, although Bustan doesn’t know if it was used.

RoboTiCan’s other robots are deployed by the defense industry, academia, private sector and governments across the world.

Rooster’s “cousins” have similarly cutesy names, for example Komodo, ARMadillo, TurtleBot and KREMEBOt, the latter a sweet play on the chocolate-coated marshmallow treats loved by Israeli children (and presumably robot makers during late-night manufacturing sessions).

All of RoboTiCan’s robots start their autonomous lives in Israel where the prototypes are built. Actual manufacturing is outsourced, then the robot is sent back to Israel for final assembly.

Now, that’s something to crow about.

Brian Blum, a journalist and high-tech entrepreneur, writes about new local startups, pharmaceutical advances, and scientific discoveries for Israel21c. This article is published courtesy of Israel21c.