December 1, 2008 Both in the air and on the ground, unmanned robotic systems have been deployed to battlefields in growing numbers over the past decade and it's safe to predict that these numbers will only grow in coming years. The reason is simple - they keep human beings out of the firing line. The latest example to join QinetiQ North America's TALON family is the versatile Dragon Runner Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) - a lightweight, portable modular robot which can be quickly configured for both reconnaissance and improvised explosive device (IED) disarmament.
Its ability to climb stairs, negotiate drainpipes and even open doors makes the Dragon Runner adaptable to urban as well as rural environments and rough terrain. At 20 pounds it can be carried in a standard-issue pack and the design gives soldiers several add-on options with which to tailor the bots' capabilities to the situation such as extra tracks or a sophisticated gripper arm with a rotating shoulder and wrist.
Situational awareness is provided by day and night pan/tilt/zoom cameras, motion and sound detectors and the ability to select analogue or digital radio options boosts flexibility and range.
Over 2,000 of the Dragon Runner's larger sibling, the TALON, have has used by the U.S. military since it was introduced in 2000.