The company already has 3,700 Throwbots in use in 30 countries around the world, but none of those systems has the capability that the company is unveiling today: a microphone so users can hear what’s going on around the robot once it’s tossed into a building or over a wall.
The microphone added no weight to the 1.6-pound robot, said Ernest Langdon, the company’s director of U.S. military programs, though it did require some internal rewiring. The enhancements don’t come at the expense of any of the bot’s other capabilities, such as speed, range, or the ability to withstand repeated 30-foot drops and 120-foot tosses.
Company President Alan Bignall said the audio version of the Throwbot, which also has a new infrared sensor installed next to the microphone that can illuminate up to 25 feet, will cost a few hundred dollars more than the current $13,000 system. The entire package, which consists of the Throwbot plus the wireless controller-video screen, weighs slightly more than 3 pounds.
The Throwbot XT — sans microphone and infrared sensor — is currently fighting it out with three other small robots in a series of operational assessments taking place in Afghanistan and are vying for a contract for several thousand systems that will be rapidly fielded once the evaluation is complete. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) said earlier this year that it would send 400 small robots to Afghanistan — 100 from each competitor — but the results of the evaluations are still pending.
The Army had already purchased about 700 Recon Scouts in two deals in 2011 before buying 1,100 more in February of this year for $13.9 million.