Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robots Outfitted with Weapons

Article excerpt

In a live demonstration last month, the U.S. Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center tested the performance of an armed robot, called Talon.

Explosive ordnance disposal experts at the New Jersey facility operated the robot with a remotely-aimed weapons mount and a new fire control system.

The Talon has attracted the attention of several potential users looking to supplement sensor payloads with lethal weapons. "It's small. It's quiet, and it goes where people don't want to be," explained EOD Sgt. 1st Class David Platt.

The Talon robot, made by Foster-Miller Inc. in Waltham, Mass., is authorized for EOD by all four U.S. armed services and has been employed successfully in Bosnia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The tracked robot was one of four types used to search the World Trade Center rubble in 2001. It carries a 300-pound payload of sensors, tools or weapons, said Foster-Miller vide president Amis Mangolds.

The company is now integrating the Talon robot and various armament systems under a Small Business Innovative Research contract. Electrical and electromagnetic testing now underway will make the Talon fully safety-certified to fire weapons and/or explosives.

Though Foster-Miller prototyped mortars, grenade dispensers and other weapons for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the late ]990s, early government interest in armed robots faded. Of the approximately 60 Talons in the Army today, nearly all are used for explosive ordnance disposal.

However, a high-recoil arm tested with an EOD shotgun at Picatinny inspired technicians in the ARDEC Explosive Ordnance Division to conduct a new armed robot demonstration last summer. According to armed robot system manager Stephen Trentanelli, "this program came about because these NCOs were experimenting with equipment they had on hand to satisfy future requirements."

The follow-on demonstration last month was designed to show the capabilities of lethal robot payloads. It also will help provide a database for unmanned ground vehicles under the Future Combat System program.

In the preliminary trials, the radio-controlled robot accurately fired 12 Flame- (incendiary) and 16 HEAT- (High Explosive Anti-Tank) LAW (Light Anti-tank Weapon) rockets from a four-round M202 launcher.

The robot weighed 126 pounds, including 51 pounds for the rockets. New lithium batteries in the follow-on demonstration weighed 20 pounds less than the original lead-acid batteries. The new power supply will also extend robot running time from two or three hours with lead-acid cells to 10 to 12 hours, depending on terrain.

In early trials, the M202 four-round rocket launcher was mounted on the 53-inch long robot arm. Just bolting it on the vehicle isn't good enough," noted Mangolds. "You want to aim it in pitch and yaw". Using the elevating arm nevertheless required the original armed robot to turn to the firing azimuth.

The follow-on demonstration included the TRAP (telepresent rapid aiming platform) gunnery system made by Precision Remotes Inc. …