April 12, 2004
Firm cheers loss of robot in Iraq

[This is historic. From CNN:]

BURLINGTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A U.S. robot manufacturer Monday hailed the destruction of one of its units in Iraq and said it showed how valuable the machines have become for the U.S. military.

iRobot Corporation learned last week from the Pentagon that one of its units, called a PackBot, was "destroyed in action" for the first time. Its destruction meant the life of a U.S. soldier may well have been saved, the company said.

"It was a special moment -- a robot got blown up instead of a person," said iRobot CEO Colin Angle.

The company, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, declined to provide further details on how the PackBot was destroyed in Iraq.

"The U.S. military is ... concerned that if they release too many details, insurgents will be able to take action (against the robots)," said Osa Fitch, program executive at iRobot's Government and Industrial Robotics division.

Between 50 and 100 PackBots are now being used in Iraq and Afghanistan for battlefield reconnaissance, search-and-destroy missions of explosives and ordnance disposal, while the soldiers who control them keep out of harm's way.

The 42-pound base unit, known as the PackBot Scout, costs around $50,000 and operates in adverse conditions such as navigating steep terrain, exploring mountain caves, falling off cliffs and fording streams.

When fitted with a special arm, a PackBot can reach and disrupt booby traps that have emerged as a weapon of choice among Iraqi insurgents.

On Monday, iRobot signed a contract worth an estimated $32 million to develop a smaller, more advanced form of the PackBot for the U.S. military.

The company will develop the robot as part of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems program.

Posted by jjwiseman at April 12, 2004 05:09 PM
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