Precision Urban Hopper gets renamed the Sand Flea and prepares for testing in Afghanistan...
The Military’s new Sand Flea reconnaissance robot – a small UGV capable of leaping over objects 25ft tall – is being readied for trails on the battlefield this winter.
The small recon bot, developed by a collaborative team from Sandia National Laboratories and Boston Dynamics, navigates the ground on four wheels, and leaps using a leg powered by powerful pistons, to leap in a controlled manner through the air.
Sand Flea Recon Bot
Roughly the size of shoebox, the bot is remotely operated and features a camera to stream a live video feedback to its controller. It packs enough juice to perform 30 jumps over obstacles 40-60 times its own height, and its navigational system is so precise that a soldier can even direct the ‘bot to leap up two stories and right into an open window.’
The bot, was initially commissioned by Darpa, the Pentagon’s cutting-edge research arm, in 2009, was designed to perform reconnaissance in areas secured by large 15-20ft walls; a common safeguard for compounds in Afghanistan.
And while aerial drones seems to have stolen the show over their land-based counter parts when it comes to robotic warfare, Jon Salton, an engineer with Sandia Labs, pointed out that:
“Anything up to 33 feet, and it’s easier to hop than hover. Obviously, this goes places you wouldn’t be able to take a tank — and where it makes more sense to jump instead of fly.” [Danger Room, Wired.]
Originally unveiled as the Precision Urban Hopper, the Sand Flea is not the only bot to fill such a niche. Earlier this year we saw the introduction of throwable recon bots, some, like the Recon Scout, with magnetic wheels that can adhere to hull of ships and other metallic surfaces.
That’s not to say the Sand Flea doesn’t bring anything new to the table; in some circumstances the simplicity and speed of throwing a bot with your own arms may be preferable, but humans aren’t always accurate, and the target may not always be within line of sight, it’s in these situations that the Sand Flea is right at home.