April 24, 2007 The remarkable success of robots in Iraq and Afghanistan is now well documented. UAVs have proven invaluable at every level and robotic ground systems, primarily iRobot’s Packbot, have performed tens of thousands of missions and saved countless lives from the dreaded Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The PackBot is used daily in war zones to disarm IEDs and search buildings, caves and tunnels. Now, the Boeing and iRobot are to combine knowledge to build a next generation of the robotic military ground platform. The SUGV Early will be a smaller, lighter version of the PackBot, and will provide military, civil and commercial users with unprecedented reconnaissance and secure, real-time intelligence capabilities.
The remotely operated and highly maneuverable SUGV Early will feature a video camera and commercial electro-optics, infrared sensors mounted on an articulated manipulator arm and a track-driven chassis that will allow it to negotiate rough terrain and stairs. The 30-pound backpackable unit is designed for use in a wide range of hazardous situations, such as bomb disposal and disaster relief operations. The system, which utilizes commercial off-the-shelf technology and employs the basic design of future networked robotic systems currently under development for the U.S. Army, will be ready for delivery in 2008.
SUGV Early will be developed by a partnership of Boeing and iRobot which will combine the expertise, capabilities and resources of both companies to create a small robotic vehicle that can perform a variety of surveillance missions and assist soldiers, law enforcement officials and rescue workers performing high-risk operations. Dennis Muilenburg, vice president and general manager, Boeing Combat Systems, said of the venture, "the SUGV Early builds on lessons learned from users of the combat-proven iRobot PackBot, as well as experimentation using next-generation prototypes, to provide a solution that meets immediate warfighter, civilian and commercial needs."
"The SUGV Early will have a large, diverse customer base," said Vice Adm. Joe Dyer (U.S. Navy, Ret.), president of iRobot Government and Industrial Robots. "By teaming with Boeing, we can leverage their system-of-system capabilities and global marketing strength to quickly get these life-saving robots into the hands of our troops, first responders and allies worldwide."
Under the agreement, Boeing will provide expertise in systems integration, large volume production and global marketing, while iRobot will design, develop and manufacture the robots. Boeing and iRobot will jointly offer these commercial robots to all U.S. Department of Defense, civil and international markets.