Current versions of the ROVs carry optional cameras and a variety of graspers that allow remote operators to see where they’re going and open suspicious packages. Until now that interaction has been largely silent.
The two-way hailer system uses an encrypted radio link to connect the operator with the ROV as much as 2,600 feet away. Sensitivity of the microphone and speakers the ROV carries can be adjusted by the operator to carry on conversations at four different volume levels. The system also includes a 120-decibel siren designed to create a warning or disrupt voice conversations nearby.
The first versions of the system have been delivered to police special-operations groups in Texas and Florida, where they’ll be used to not only inspect suspicious packages, but also possibly to roll into hostage situations and give police not only eyes and ears on the situation, but a voice with which to negotiate directly.
“We feel our new, two-way hailer will be particularly useful for military checkpoints, building clearance, barricaded suspects, hostage negotiations and emergency evacuations,” said William Ribich, president of QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group, formerly Foster-Miller, which was acquired by QinetiQ in 2004.
Both the audio unit and its controller are separate from the rest of the Talon gear. The ROV-mounted microphone and speakers can be moved easily from one robot to another; the controller is a clip-on handset designed to be used by one operator as the other controls the vehicle. The handset can also be connected to audio files on MP3 players or computers to play back recorded audio as well.
More than 2,500 Talons are deployed worldwide, primarily by the U.S. military as detectors of improvised explosive devices, mines and other dangers. QinetiQ offers civilian versions of the Talon for emergency services use to investigate suspicious packages, explore dangerous locations for victims or felons, or to help manage hazardous-materials spills.
No pricing was available.