ReconRobotics’ “throwbot” Micro-UGVs
For now, small “throwbots” sit at the smallest end of the robotic explosion in the modern US Army. “Battlefield Robots: to Iraq, and Beyond” discussed front-line troops’ initial use of robots like the Dragon Runner, especially in urban warfare. This class of robots has continued to evolve, and ReconRobotics inc. of Minneapolis, MN has been picking up contracts from the military and beyond for a clever design called the Recon Scout.
It won’t shovel your driveway after a Panhandle Hook has come through, but if you’re trying to see into the next room, or over a wall, or even under rubble after a natural disaster, ReconRobotics thinks they have just the thing for you.
RR’s Twin Cities Throwbot
The firm’s most current military mainstay is the Recon Scout XT. These wheeled micro-robots are deployed within platoons at the fire-team level, especially during route-clearing and compound-clearing operations. This simple-looking robot weighs just 1.2 pounds/ 540 g, is deployed by pulling an activation pin, and can be thrown up to 120 feet/ 36 m. Its wheel system is designed to handle rougher terrain than its Recon Scout IR predecessor, and its infrared optical system automatically turns on when the ambient light is low. The system can transmit video up to 100 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors, day or night, and recent upgrades have added audio transmission as well. The Recon Scout XT may also be specified in any of 3 transmitting frequencies, allowing close operation of up to 3 robots at one time.
The video camera’s picture is beamed back to its 1-button joystick controller, and the robot can be recharged in the field using standard 5590 or 2590 batteries. The entire system weighs just 3 pounds/ 1.3 kg, and has been popular with military and law enforcement agencies alike. Its size makes unconventional uses possible, like dropping it down a shaft using a tether. For added standard versatility, a compact extendable gripper called the SearchStick(TM) can lift it over walls and other obstacles, or position it to see into ditches and culverts, turning the robot into an impromptu land periscope.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise indicated, all contracts are awarded to ReconRobotics inc. of Minneapolis, MN.
Work will be performed in Minneapolis, with an estimated completion date of June 6/14. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W91CRB-12-C-0008).
June 8/12: Audio in. ReconRobotics, Inc. announces that the Throwbot® XT can now provide both audio and video transmissions. The new model will be presented at Eurosatory 2012. Jean-Luc Panetta, VP of Product Management and Engineering:
“Our objective with this product evolution was to dramatically increase the capabilities of our micro-robot without increasing its weight, and we accomplished that.”
May 30/12: International subsidiary. ReconRobotics, Inc. announces a new headquarters for its international sales operations in Lugano, Switzerland, “signaling a significant advancement in the company’s three-year global expansion.” The wholly-owned RRI Global SAGL subsidiary will oversee all sales, marketing and customer service operations outside of North America, and will be led by Barry E.T. Harris MBE, the company’s Director of International Programs.
ReconRobotics says that over 3,500 Recon Scout systems have been deployed by law enforcement agencies, the U.S. military and international friendly forces, and states that its international reseller network currently extends to 33 countries.
April 4/12: Xollai acquisition. ReconRobotics, Inc. announces that it has acquired Xollai LLC, “a systems engineering firm with a broad base of intellectual property in automated guidance technology, optics-based autonomous control systems, and image processing and recognition.” ReconRobotics plans to fully integrate Xollai into its product engineering and design operations by the end of April 2012, and maintain Xollai’s current headquarters in Saint Paul, MN.
March 14/12: USMC order. ReconRobotics, Inc. announces a $1.7 million US Marne Corps contract for 126 Recon Scout XT micro-robot kit, via the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office (RS JPO). This is the largest Marine Corps order in the company’s history, and ReconRobotics plans to complete deliveries by April 30/12.
The company also promotes its market reach, citing use by “nearly 400 law enforcement agencies” for high-risk tactical operations such as hostage rescues, barricaded subject situations and narcotics raids.
Feb 13-15/12: A $14 million firm-fixed-price contract for “micro unmanned ground vehicle robots in support of video reconnaissance.” Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W91CRB-12-C-0026).
A subsequent firm release places the number of Recon XT robots at 1,100, which is the US Army’s largest single order of any micro-robot type. ReconRobotics’ release also announces a pair of orders from the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force worth almost $1 million. This is not a follow on to the Jan 27/12 JIEDDO story.
Jan 27/12: The US military’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) plans to send 400 “throwbots” to Afghanistan for operational user tests later in 2012, after spending $22 million to order 100 robots each from 4 finalists. The contenders are QinetiQ’s Dragon Runner 10, MacroUSA’s Armadillo, iRobot’s “Firstlook”, and ReconRobotics’ Recon Scout XT.
Dragon Runner reportedly did very well, even though it’s the heaviest competitor at over 10 pounds for the system. JIEDDO program integrator Matt Way is quoted as saying that the final buy is likely to include more than 1 type. AW Ares.
Oct 5/11: The firm announces a $4.8 million contract from the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force for 315 Recon Scout XT micro-robot kits, and an equal number of SearchSticks. ReconRobotics plans to complete deliveries by Oct 31/11.
Aug 23/11: The firm announces a series of contracts from the US armed forces worth $5.8 million, ordering 385 of its Recon Scout XT micro-robot kits, and “a large number of Recon Scout SearchStick™ devices”. ReconRobotics plans to complete deliveries by Aug 30/11.
Aug 27/09: ReconRobotics, Inc. introduces the Recon Scout XT throwable reconnaissance robot, for use by militaries, police units, and even post-disaster humanitarian missions.
May 18/09: The firm announces a $1.35 million contract from the U.S. Army for 150 of its Recon Scout IR miniature reconnaissance robots. Deliveries will begin in May 2009, from their manufacturing facility in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Recon Scout IR is less than 7.5 inches long and three inches wide, and weighs just 1.2 pounds, making it easy to carry in a pocket or on a vest. The robot uses a no-light camera system with IR emitters, and can be thrown 100 feet, or dropped from a height of 30 feet onto a concrete surface. It moves at about 1 foot per second, or about 1 km/hr. The firm adds that:
“More than 100 police and security agencies, including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the National Reconnaissance Office and several special warfare branches of the U.S. military already use the Recon Scout and the Recon Scout IR for tactical reconnaissance in high-risk operations.”
- ReconRobotics – SWAT Profiles Featuring The Recon Scout