December 10, 2004 A new era of robot warfare has been launched with the US Army employing 100 TALON robots equipped with off-the-shelf chemical, gas, temperature, and radiation sensors for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. The explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots are to be used for a variety of missions ranging from clearing live grenades to neutralising mines in shallow water, and can be adapted for small mobile weapons systems (SMWS) for force protection.
The TALON robots, built by US company Foster-Miller, have already performed over 10,000 explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions. They are rugged, all-weather platforms capable of manoeuvring in desert or beach sand, snow, water, grassy or wooded terrain, and inside buildings. TALON robots can climb stairs and sustain falls and right themselves. They have been lowered into landing zones by helicopters, dropped from moving vehicles and launched offshore to reach underwater targets.
The TALON is a general-purpose modular robot with a versatile 64-inch pincer arm. It is controlled through RF or a fibre optic link from an attaché-sized operator control unit (OCU) or wearable OCU. On the ground the TALON can reach a vehicle speed of 6.6 km/h and last a four-hour run time. Mounted on the TALON robot are:
• Smiths APD 2000 advanced portable chemical agent detector. • Draeger Multiwarn II gas detector. • Raytek Raynger MX4+ temperature sensor. • Thermo FH40GL radiation detector.
The APD 2000 detects chemical warfare agents, gamma radiation and irritants such as pepper spray and mace. The Draeger Multiwarn II can measure more than 50 gases including carbon dioxide, methane, propane, fuels and solvents. The Raytek Raynger MX4+ is the most advanced portable thermometer in the industry and the only one designed with precise infrared beam tracking. It is accurate to within 1 deg C and can be used to remotely sense the heat of a fire behind a closed door. The Thermo FH40GL takes measurements between 30 kilo-electron-volts and 1.3 mega-electron-volts and can record a radiological exposure rate from 1 micro-Roentgen per hour to 10 Roentgens per hour.
Foster-Miller integrated the four sensors into one hand-held PDA so that robot operators can send TALON to check an area for the presence of chemicals, radiation, gases or fires before personnel enter. Other off-the-shelf sensor brands and options will also be offered on future TALON robots, including BAE Systems' Chem Sentry 150 C, Rae Systems' Neutron RAE and Canberra's AN/VDR.
"Foster-Miller is proud to be able to further assist and protect first responders, bomb squads and military EOD units as they carry out their life-saving work," said Dr. William Ribich, president of Foster-Miller. "This enhanced detection capability joins a long list of tasks that can be performed by our versatile and reliable TALON robots."
TALON for EOD/IED Missions
TALON robots have been in continuous, active military service since 2000 when they were successfully used in Bosnia for the safe movement and disposal of live grenades. They were the only American-made robots successfully used at Ground Zero in search and recovery efforts after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and the only robots to last through the entire mission without requiring a major repair. TALON robots were also the first robots taken into Afghanistan during action against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in February 2002. They initially accompanied the Special Forces on a Classified mission, and are still there now doing EOD work. They were on the ground in Kuwait when coalition forces massed in 2003.
A smaller, lighter TALON weighing just 60 lb (27 kg) and equipped with a variety of day/night colour cameras and sensitive listening devices is ideal for reconnaissance missions. It has all the features of the large TALON, but does not have an arm or gripper.
TALON robots can be configured with M240 or M249 machine guns or Barrett 50-calibre rifles for armed reconnaissance missions. A prototype system was delivered to the 3/2 Stryker brigade for evaluation, and successful testing was performed by the brigade in Kuwait in December 2003. Additional prototypes have been manufactured and are currently undergoing system safety certification by the U.S. Army. Alternative weapons, including 40 mm grenade launchers and anti-tank rocket launchers, continue to be evaluated by the U.S. Army.
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