Demand for robotics fuels contract opportunities

Army and Navy both order robots and other services

Demand for robotics continues to grow as iRobot reports winning $19 million in new orders in one week.

The company, based in Bedford, Mass., announced today it won a $5.1 million order from the Army TACOM Contracting Center for 14 iRobot PackBot 510s.

Earlier this week, iRobot won a a $13.5 million contract from the Naval Sea Systems Command to deliver PackBot Man Transportable Robotic System robots, spare parts, accessories and related services.

The PackBot MTRS robot gives explosive ordnance disposal technicians the ability to detect, identify and disable explosive devices from safe distances. It is customized for NAVSEA and is modeled after the iRobot PackBot 500 with the explosive ordnance disposal kit.

The PackBot 510 with FasTac Kit ordered by the Army is a lighter-weight alternative to other explosive ordnance disposal robots, according to the company. It is used by soldiers and Marines in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The robot gives warfighters the ability to investigate areas and suspicious objects using its cameras and other sensors. Video and information are sent back to the operator through a ruggedized laptop.

“One of the reasons these robots are so important is that they have the ability to perform the role of point man on the battlefield,” said Joe Dyer, president of iRobot Government and Industrial Robots. “Warfighters can send the robot into a potentially dangerous area first.”

iRobot has delivered more than 2,500 PackBot, company officials said.

Government customers including military, police and other first responders are turning to robots and unmanned vehicles to perform duties deemed to dangerous for people.

Earlier this month, for example, the Army issued a solicitation to develop an autonomous mine detection system. 

The Army’s Countermine Division and Dismounted Soldier Applications Branch is searching for robot-mounted systems that can detect surface laid and buried, metallic and low-metallic land mines. The Army also wants a system that can mark a safe path of travel through a suspected minefield.

First responders use robots to gain situational awareness in hostage situations, hazardous materials spills and other scenarios.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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