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The Little Bot that Could

Here’s a pretty interesting piece of defense tech sent over by DT reader Travis the other day about an innovative mast system that can be used in unmanned ground vehicles that allows the diminutive bots to see over high walls.

The so called Situational Awareness Mast uses a patented interlock system that differentiates it from telescoping masts that take up a lot of room and weight when stowed, thereby limiting their extension height.

Here’s what Hizook blog said about it…

The Situational Awareness Mast (SAM, also known as a Zipper Mast) from Geosystems Inc. is a telescoping linear actuator that has a unique property — it’s stroke length is an order of magnitude greater than its nominal height! For example, the SAM8 is a 10 lb device with a stroke length (8ft) that is 24 times it’s nominal height (4 inches)! This can be used to vertically translate a robot’s sensor suite for better visibility while still allowing for a low profile. Read on for information on the different Zipper Mast variants, the patent describing the system, and an exclusive video of a Zipper Mast on an iRobot Packbot!

Be sure to check out Hizook for more details on how Geosystems accomplishes the low-profile boom. They’ve got pics from the patent and other schematics. As with UAVs, UGVs are beginning to come into their own and I know from personal experience they’re a potential lifesaver on a battlefield strewn with IEDs, mines and other boobie traps.

And here’s a video of the system that best explains how it works.

Geosystems Situational Awareness Mast (aka Zippermast) from Travis on Vimeo

– Christian

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt December 30, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I bet he’s popular with the fembots…


fronten December 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

actually i first thought this is a stupid idea..
but hey - the gained height is really much!
didnt expect this.
the conzept is also really nice, say zipper.
there may be a (huge) problem with wind and balance though..


Adriano F. December 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm

It’s fake.


Dr. Curiosity December 30, 2008 at 6:38 pm

That’s some solid prototype engineering, right there. Can’t help but wonder how much space it takes up internally, mind.


Brandon December 31, 2008 at 5:58 pm

We were originally going to use a larger version of that mast in a vehicle. They do exist


Vstress January 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Very nice idea!
Brandon… you seem to be talking like you work on the program:
What is the number of extensions that can occur before you get material degradation? Is this comparable with a normal cylinder? I can see exactly where the material cracking would start - any future redesigns of the cut-outs etc. to improve the life?
What is the maximum force it can take in “crush”?


George Woodruff January 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm

We manufactured this Situational Awareness Mast for the U.S. Army, TARDEC, Warren, MI. We are now selling commercial masts. The masts come in various sizes depending upon height and load requirements. These masts can cycle over 25,000 times before failure.


Darren Moran January 3, 2009 at 8:12 am

love that comment,
“I bet he’s popular with the fembots…
Posted by: Matt at December 30, 2008 02:17 PM”
Made me chuckle!!


electric actuator January 9, 2009 at 4:18 am

Great post!! Thanks for sharing!! :D


electric actuator January 12, 2009 at 4:22 am

Great post!! Thanks for sharing.. :D


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