Even if I'm not completely sure, I think this is the first time in the world that a Minister of Defense unveiled himself new robots. It happened yesterday in Australia when Warren Snowdon showed a new robot called SPIKER designed to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). For your curiosity, SPIKER is an acronym for 'Special Purpose IED Killer Experimental Robot.' Snowdon also unveiled a remotely controlled vehicle known as RASP -- short for 'Remote Advanced Sensor Platform' -- which can identify radioactive threats from a distance. This post is focused on SPIKER which should cost about $15,000 to produce, about a tenth of the cost of existing robots able to do a similar job, according to other sources. But read more...
You can see above a photograph showing the SPIKER robot in action. (Credit: Australian Department of Defense)
And you can see on the left that the SPIKER can also be used inside a building. (Credit: Australian Department of Defense) Here is a link to a photo gallery of SPIKER and RASP images.
The SPIKER and RASP robots have been developed by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and were demonstrated at the Land Warfare Conference 2008 in Brisbane.
In Sacrificial robot will save soldiers' lives, The Age (Australia) provides additional details. "Defence scientist Brian Jarvis said it was too dangerous for a human to deal with an improvised explosive device by hand. 'Often these devices are booby-trapped so that if the operator tries to defuse it by hand, cutting the wires or whatever, if there are booby traps there he can initiate the device and probably lose his life in the process,' Dr Jarvis said."
Here is another quote from The Age article. "The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said the new technology could save soldiers' lives by carrying out dirty and dangerous work. Dr Jarvis said the new robot was fitted with a set of specially designed explosives and the controller could manoeuvre it so that one of these could be placed against the tip of the shell to ensure it detonated. The robot would then hold the explosive in place until the operator set it off — with grim consequences for SPIKER. Each robot is likely to cost about $15,000, about a tenth of the cost of existing robots able to do a similar job."
For more information, you can visit the Ausrobot website and its SPIKER page. "The SPIKER system is based on Ausrobot's tried and proven unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) range. This easy to operate, rapid response vehicle carries out inspection and destruction of improvised explosive devices or may be used as a platform for explosive entry devices in siege situations. SPIKER's all terrain mobility, stair climbing capability, long range communications and low entry cost point make an ideal platform for a number of weapon systems. The SPIKER system comprises a ground control station (GCS) and 4 UGVs. Optional hand control system with heads up display glasses are also available."
Sources: Australian Department of Defense news release, October 30, 2008; Brendan Nicholson, The Age, Australia, October 30, 2008; and various websites
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