Navy round-upNavy begins planning for next generation of EOD robots

Published 6 March 2007

Packbot, Talon, and Bombot are doing the job well, but the military wants to build a scalable system from the ground up; wireless communication a major concern due to interference from IED jammers; 2012 proposed production date

Almost every week we report on various successes attributable to companies in the robot bomb disposal and explosives detection business. These steel saviors have saved hundreds of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no doubt will save many more as America’s wars in those two countries continue to slog on. Yet despite their successes, we cannot fault the military for wanting more. After all, the three most popular models of explosive ordanance disposal drones (EODs) — iRobot’s Packbot, Foster-Miller’s Talon, and Innovative Response Technologies’s BomBot — are really commercial off-the-shelf systems. Now the Navy — the service responsible for all the military’s EOD robot needs — is looking to build its own from the ground up, with production to begin by 2012.

“We think we can get away from using what industry has at the time and modifying it to military requirements,” said the Navy’s Byron Brezina. The three systems mentioned above “were the right answer at the that time and continue to be the answer now … We’d really like to take a [technological] leap and field something five years from now.” One problem: the systems currently in use are based on proprietary technology and cannot be networked together (although readers will recall our recent report about iRobot’s efforts to network fleets of its own drones). At the top of the list, said Brezina, is plug and play scalability, as are wireless communications systems that are invulnerable to interference from the electronic jammers typically used to defend against IEDs. “The electromagnetic environment compatibility issue is here to stay, [so] we’ve got to have better wireless means of communication,” said Brezina.

-read more in Stew Magnuson’s National Defense Magazine report