March 5, 2008 Most notably known to consumers for its Roomba robot vacuum range and an assortment of home help bots, iRobot has received an award under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) LANdroids program to develop a small, mobile communications relay robot that would empower US warfighters with communications.
The multi-year robotics research and development program will allow iRobot to create a portable communications relay robot that is small, inexpensive, intelligent and robust. The new effort takes advantage of the company’s extensive experience in mobile robot design and production. The final robot design must be small enough that a single dismounted warfighter can carry multiple robots and cheap enough to produce that it is disposable if need be. Intelligence requirements include the need to autonomously detect and avoid obstacles while navigating in dense urban environments.
According to Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman of iRobot, more than 1,300 of iRobot’s field-tested and combat-proven PackBot robots have already been deployed in delivering support to warfighters around the globe. She said this program will enable iRobot “to continue driving innovation towards the next-generation of revolutionary mobile, tactical combat robots that deliver advanced situational awareness and help keep warfighters out of harm’s way.”
The aim of the DARPA’s LANdroids program is to develop technologies to enable warfighters to rapidly deploy and maintain a communications infrastructure composed of a system of multiple LANdroids mobile communications relay robots that form a reconfigurable communications backbone in support of operations.
DARPA is also responsible for the “Urban Challenge” an initiative aimed at developing driverless cars and consumer robotics through a $2million race.