Since iRobot co-founder and former board chairman Helen Greiner left iRobot this past February to pursue other interests (she is still a member if the iRobot board), their has been much speculation and little insight was to what those interests might be. The website of her stealth company, The Droid Works, provided little information. A short Xconomy piece, also in February, did make mention of a “project in the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] space”.
While there has been no official announcement from the Wayland, Massachusetts based The Droid Works, the company has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grant of approximately $100K to “develop underlying technologies that will enable Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) to navigate inside houses and buildings”. The award, which is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes through the National Science Foundation (NSF), expires at the end of 2009.
The description of the grant clearly indicates that the technology is designed for UAVs used in “emergency response situations,” as opposed to the military, to aid first responders and victims. The grant abstract goes further to describe the role of small (presumably) UAVs for indoor search and rescue and the limitations of unmanned ground systems for the same work.