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article imageiRobot Will Deliver Packbots for Army to Disarm Bombs and Search Buildings

By Chris V. Thangham     Dec 19, 2007 in Politics
Massachusetts-based iRobot Corp. won a military contract worth $286 million to supply bomb-disarming robots to the U.S. Army. It beat a smaller rival, Robotic FX, which it accused of stealing its trade secrets.
iRobot, the maker of the famous household vacuum called "Roomba," also makes robots for industrial and military purposes. It has already delivered more than 1,200 PackBots to the U.S. army to disarm roadside bombs and search abandoned buildings and caves before the soldiers or emergency personnel can go in.
Over the summer, the Army held a competition at its Redstone Arsenal in Alabama to draw bids from robot makers.
Initially, the U.S. Army provided a limited quantity of these robots for explosive-disarming specialists, but with this new contract, the company wants to extend the deal and provide robots for the infantry division also.
Another robotic company (an Illinois-based company called Robotic FX that was founded by former iRobot employee Jameel Ahed) won the contract in September, but iRobot filed a lawsuit and said Robotic FX stole its trade secrets. A Boston court filed an injunction against Robotic FX, stopping them from using the technology until the case was resolved. As a result, the army canceled this contract and gave it to the next bidder, which in this case was iRobot.
With this new contract, iRobot will supply up to 3,000 units of a new, smaller and lighter version of its track-wheeled PackBot. The contract also requires iRobot to provide spare parts, training and repair services for five years.
Joe Dyer, president of iRobot's government and industrial robots program told the Associated Press:"This new generation of robots is set to arrive in theater and change the way the Army fights."
iRobot will deliver the first 101 robots to the army for rapid deployment.
The robots are very inexpensive and will help soldiers in battle conditions tremendously. This will be the future for war as well as commercial applications such as
The video above highlights some of the PackBot's skills.
More about Irobot, Army, Packbots