October 4, 2005 8:37 AM PDT

iRobot unveils sniper detector

With a new sensor system, iRobot aims to help soldiers locate enemy snipers.

On Monday, the company announced a prototype system designed to pinpoint incoming rounds from rifles and mortars, and also to provide surveillance and targeting capabilities. The remote-controlled gear, named Redowl (short for "robot enhanced detection outpost with lasers), is designed to work with iRobot's PackBot combat device.

Redowl

The PackBot is a robot small enough to be carried by a single soldier. It has already done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Redowl features a laser pointer and illuminator, an acoustic localizer and classifier, a thermal imager, GPS (Global Positioning System), an infrared and daylight camera, and two wide-angle cameras. iRobot, which also makes the Roomba household vacuum robot, developed the Redowl system in conjunction with the Photonics Center at Boston University.

In field tests, the PackBot-Redowl combination had a success rate of 94 percent in locating the source of rounds fired from 9mm pistols, and M-16 and AK-rifles, at a range of more than 100 meters, the company said.

"Snipers have had the advantage of being effectively invisible--making them a deadly threat on the battlefield and in urban settings," retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, general manager of iRobot's government and industrial robots unit, said in a statement. Redowl "is a mobile system, which means snipers can run but they cannot hide anymore."

26 comments

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Hehe
Shoot the sniper detector first.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hehe
Shoot the sniper detector first.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Reply Link Flag
nice toy
nice toy but some of the additional add on features are both a waste space and battery energy. Oh well I can see a lot of field modifications will be required before they will become useful. It's a pity one cannot send these idiot salesmen, engineers and designers that flog these toys, out to field in both real time and real life. Perhaps, then they will get the message about useless high tech toys with excessive features are a liability along with themselves in a very short order. Question, are they lucky? as any battlefield vet would say!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extra features?
I'm not sure which of the features you consider extra...I agree that
loading a "battlebot" with extra junk it doesn't need is wasteful, but
when you're talking about the stuff its using to complete its
mission what exactly does it not need?
Posted by Travich (6 comments )
Link Flag
Extra features?
I'm not sure which features on the robot you consider extra...it
sounded to me like all the stuff they listed was part of a mission
essential loadout. Cameras and GPS for navigation, laser
designator for artillery/airstrike spotting, and acoustic locator for
actually finding the sniper/mortar.
Posted by Travich (6 comments )
Link Flag
nice toy
nice toy but some of the additional add on features are both a waste space and battery energy. Oh well I can see a lot of field modifications will be required before they will become useful. It's a pity one cannot send these idiot salesmen, engineers and designers that flog these toys, out to field in both real time and real life. Perhaps, then they will get the message about useless high tech toys with excessive features are a liability along with themselves in a very short order. Question, are they lucky? as any battlefield vet would say!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extra features?
I'm not sure which of the features you consider extra...I agree that
loading a "battlebot" with extra junk it doesn't need is wasteful, but
when you're talking about the stuff its using to complete its
mission what exactly does it not need?
Posted by Travich (6 comments )
Link Flag
Extra features?
I'm not sure which features on the robot you consider extra...it
sounded to me like all the stuff they listed was part of a mission
essential loadout. Cameras and GPS for navigation, laser
designator for artillery/airstrike spotting, and acoustic locator for
actually finding the sniper/mortar.
Posted by Travich (6 comments )
Link Flag
does it come with iTunes?
iRobot? Who came up with this name? Does it run OS X?
Posted by scottk0640 (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iRobot
Alan Parsons Project!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
does it come with iTunes?
iRobot? Who came up with this name? Does it run OS X?
Posted by scottk0640 (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iRobot
Alan Parsons Project!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
I hope the screen doesn't scratch up as easily as the nano
I guess I can buy a skin for it =/
Posted by the liquid man (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hope the screen doesn't scratch up as easily as the nano
I guess I can buy a skin for it =/
Posted by the liquid man (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Solving a nonexistent problem.
Unfortunately 9mm, M-16, or AK's are not used a effective sniper weapons. What is used is high velocity, long range (400-800+ meter) rifles where the projectile gets to the target before the sound does. Also, why not have the sniper take out the detector with the first shot? This sounds like the old anti-tank system that was great at leveling latrines but had a real tough time with anything that didn't come with a Radar reflecting dish attached. More well spent tax dollars from your friends at the MIC.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this "nonexistent" problem was solved a long time ago from previus budget
The FUNCTION of the little tank is not new. Theyre already have been detectors (larger) that locate the direction of a long distance bullet. This robot is very useful.

This morning, by coincidence since I read this article today, they showed on the news how frustrated some american soldiers were in one city b/c people were shooting at them and they couldn't locate them. Later, they got a lil desperate and were commanded to shoot w/ their judgement. Shortly, some civilians were shot, and they came out crying at the soldiers. All the soliders could say to justify it was "this is a battle in an area where civilians are nearby. these things unfortunately just happen."

I was actually thinking "Man it sucks. It would be nice if they had that machine I saw on discovery channel a few years ago where they showed a machine that can detect the source of the shooter". Then I see this article. Then I see all these negative and sarcastic posts regarding this little gadget. I'm anti-Iraq war, but I still think this is useful.
Posted by Gorditon (5 comments )
Link Flag
How to use it
This sounds like the solution to a very real problem, especially in an area where sniper fire is common.

- Drive the robot into the sniper area (hopefully hidden, but with good all-around hearing).
- Wait for sniper shot.
- The robot illumniates the sniper position with it's laser designator.
- Send in a LD-enabled round from the ground, or air, to destroy the sniper position.

Granted, the sniper must stay put for a while, or the response must be immediate. For an urban setting, ideally a whole network of shot-detection devices are deployed that can report back to a centralized network.
Posted by mckoss (3 comments )
Link Flag
Nice, but not quite thought out
Yep, that's right. . . the article is essentially what a sales person would initially feed to clients to tease them about the product.

The article clearly says that the robot locates the shooter via sound and angle of shot. It doesn't say if those two are independent, but given the cameras and laser on the robot. . in addition to the acoustic localizer, i feel confident in assuming that they are.

Now, here is a flaw in your argument. You claim that sniper rifles fire shots which hit the target before you hear the sound. Umm. . . the robot cannot intercept bullets anyway? How in the world would it matter if the robot hear the sound while the bullet was in the air or after it hit. . . The robot was not made to intercept and stop bullets, it was made to locate shooters.

Some people have been saying stuff like the robot is too visible. . . well, if a sniper is shooting at you. . .then you are probably too visisble. And seeing that the robot is smaller than most humans a sniper could shoot at. . .I'd give the robot a larger chance of survival. Like I mentioned before. . the robot is designed to find who IS actually shooting at you. If you were not in a position to be shot, the robot wouldn't be doing anything. If you can be seen to be shot, then what would hiding the robot do for you?
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
Solving a nonexistent problem.
Unfortunately 9mm, M-16, or AK's are not used a effective sniper weapons. What is used is high velocity, long range (400-800+ meter) rifles where the projectile gets to the target before the sound does. Also, why not have the sniper take out the detector with the first shot? This sounds like the old anti-tank system that was great at leveling latrines but had a real tough time with anything that didn't come with a Radar reflecting dish attached. More well spent tax dollars from your friends at the MIC.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this "nonexistent" problem was solved a long time ago from previus budget
The FUNCTION of the little tank is not new. Theyre already have been detectors (larger) that locate the direction of a long distance bullet. This robot is very useful.

This morning, by coincidence since I read this article today, they showed on the news how frustrated some american soldiers were in one city b/c people were shooting at them and they couldn't locate them. Later, they got a lil desperate and were commanded to shoot w/ their judgement. Shortly, some civilians were shot, and they came out crying at the soldiers. All the soliders could say to justify it was "this is a battle in an area where civilians are nearby. these things unfortunately just happen."

I was actually thinking "Man it sucks. It would be nice if they had that machine I saw on discovery channel a few years ago where they showed a machine that can detect the source of the shooter". Then I see this article. Then I see all these negative and sarcastic posts regarding this little gadget. I'm anti-Iraq war, but I still think this is useful.
Posted by Gorditon (5 comments )
Link Flag
How to use it
This sounds like the solution to a very real problem, especially in an area where sniper fire is common.

- Drive the robot into the sniper area (hopefully hidden, but with good all-around hearing).
- Wait for sniper shot.
- The robot illumniates the sniper position with it's laser designator.
- Send in a LD-enabled round from the ground, or air, to destroy the sniper position.

Granted, the sniper must stay put for a while, or the response must be immediate. For an urban setting, ideally a whole network of shot-detection devices are deployed that can report back to a centralized network.
Posted by mckoss (3 comments )
Link Flag
Nice, but not quite thought out
Yep, that's right. . . the article is essentially what a sales person would initially feed to clients to tease them about the product.

The article clearly says that the robot locates the shooter via sound and angle of shot. It doesn't say if those two are independent, but given the cameras and laser on the robot. . in addition to the acoustic localizer, i feel confident in assuming that they are.

Now, here is a flaw in your argument. You claim that sniper rifles fire shots which hit the target before you hear the sound. Umm. . . the robot cannot intercept bullets anyway? How in the world would it matter if the robot hear the sound while the bullet was in the air or after it hit. . . The robot was not made to intercept and stop bullets, it was made to locate shooters.

Some people have been saying stuff like the robot is too visible. . . well, if a sniper is shooting at you. . .then you are probably too visisble. And seeing that the robot is smaller than most humans a sniper could shoot at. . .I'd give the robot a larger chance of survival. Like I mentioned before. . the robot is designed to find who IS actually shooting at you. If you were not in a position to be shot, the robot wouldn't be doing anything. If you can be seen to be shot, then what would hiding the robot do for you?
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
Is it really any good?
This story reminds me of a couple from Vietnam.

We had these Sheridan Tanks. Not a bad tank in itself, but it had this canvas extension, good for fording deep streams. I guess it worked well in testing, but nobody figured that the canvas would tear when bumping into things, or that bullets and shrapnel would quickly make it useless.

And there were the gasoline powered Armored Personel Carriers. The ones where we had to weld extensions on the controls and ride on top. There were far too many hand held weapons on the enemy side that could shoot into the gas tanks and make it like riding in a bomb.

That's what this device seems like to me. It might be fine for police work but what about under combat conditions? What if there are deep ditches, trees, uneven ground, enemy fire like mortars that tip it over or shake it up? What if you have to suddenly move out quickly? Have you got time to play with those little controls and wait for the thing to catch up? Just how indestructible is it? Is it actually better than something that you can, say, just throw out into the open and move the lenses around with the same controls. Something cheap and small that can be abandoned in a pinch, and wouldn't attract attention from the enemy?

Oscar, the war, Rat
Posted by Oscar Rat (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is it really any good?
This story reminds me of a couple from Vietnam.

We had these Sheridan Tanks. Not a bad tank in itself, but it had this canvas extension, good for fording deep streams. I guess it worked well in testing, but nobody figured that the canvas would tear when bumping into things, or that bullets and shrapnel would quickly make it useless.

And there were the gasoline powered Armored Personel Carriers. The ones where we had to weld extensions on the controls and ride on top. There were far too many hand held weapons on the enemy side that could shoot into the gas tanks and make it like riding in a bomb.

That's what this device seems like to me. It might be fine for police work but what about under combat conditions? What if there are deep ditches, trees, uneven ground, enemy fire like mortars that tip it over or shake it up? What if you have to suddenly move out quickly? Have you got time to play with those little controls and wait for the thing to catch up? Just how indestructible is it? Is it actually better than something that you can, say, just throw out into the open and move the lenses around with the same controls. Something cheap and small that can be abandoned in a pinch, and wouldn't attract attention from the enemy?

Oscar, the war, Rat
Posted by Oscar Rat (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To noticeable !!!!
I hope the final version of this robot will be less noticeable than the current picture of that shiny metal can. I am sure snipers will love to shoot the robot just as much as people.
www.TechRD.com
Brian Glassman Technology
Posted by Briangsurfer (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To noticeable !!!!
I hope the final version of this robot will be less noticeable than the current picture of that shiny metal can. I am sure snipers will love to shoot the robot just as much as people.
www.TechRD.com
Brian Glassman Technology
Posted by Briangsurfer (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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