Pentagon Orders Hundreds more FirstLook Robots

irobot-first-lookThe Pentagon has ordered hundreds more FirstLook robots, a 5.2-pound, lightweight transportable robot equipped with cameras, sensors and an ability to share or mesh images with other robots in the vicinity, iRobot officials said.

FirstLook is engineered with visible cameras, long-wave infrared sensors and thermal cameras – all designed to gather and beam back images and video of nearby terrain such as buildings, caves or any potential IED or hazardous location, said Mark Belanger, director of iRobot’s robotic products.

Most of the roughly 500 FirstLook robots delivered to the U.S. military have been sent to Afghanistan, he said. The small size of the robot is designed, among other things, to better enable movement for dismounted infantry units carrying a lot of gear. FirstLook can travel at speeds of 3.8 MPH and has a small manipulator arm that can pick up 2 and ½ pounds of C4 explosive material, Belanger added.

First delivered in 2012, the FirstLook has a line-of-sight range of about 200 meters and uses standard RF technology and tele-operation for navigation. The Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, ordered roughly 100 FirstLook robots in March of 2012 in a $1.5 million deal. Since that time, iRobot has gone on to deliver about 400 more FirstLook robots to U.S. military and law enforcement entities, company officials said.

However, like other small tactical robots made by irobot such as the PackBot and Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, FirsLook has received software upgrades allowing it to reach certain levels of semi-autonomy, Belanger said.

While not full autonomy, these semi-autonomous technologies give robots the ability to perform certain key functions without needing to be tele-operated – such as correcting course in some instances.

“It has self-righting capability. If it flips over it can right itself,” he added. “We’re always looking to make robots more intuitive and easy to use.”

FirstLook also has a Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear, or CBRN, detection payload designed to assess and detect chemical and biological threats, Belanger said.

The small robot can also function as part of a mesh network wherein video feeds from multiple robots can be looked at in real time, essentially extending the range of the FirstLook sensors.

“You can form a self-healing mesh network where you can switch back and forth and look at the video feeds of other robots,” Belanger explained.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Hunter76

    Such small spy (and explosive) robots certainly will have their use. The rest of the world will buy similar bots with mostly off-the-shelf equipment for a few $100.

    • Really?

      Really? A few hundred for that little robot? I’ll bet a few hundred that China can make it for less than $50.

  • And so now does Skynet’s war against us humans continue to grow.

  • oblatt2

    Good example of a multi-million dollar investment that can be countered by the Taliban giving 10c to a child to pick it up and throw it in the latrine.

    The Taliban want to win the war and we want to make our contractors rich. Looks like another win win solution.

    • Hunter76

      Countered? In urban combat the side that has these have a real advantage.

    • Guest

      What a stupid thing to say. You do realize that these things will be carried and deployed by infantry, not prowling around on their own, right? Even if the enemy does as you say, the robot would’ve served it’s purpose by alerting users to the presence of enemies.

      But don’t let that get in the way of your righteous indignation

      • guest

        What a stupid thing to say. You should be saying that to yourself.

        Is that robot so damned smart that it can tell whether or not the kid that dumped it in the latrine was being paid? Is that why US drones have been killing children over there?

      • dan

        “these things will be carried and deployed by infantry, not prowling around on their own …”

        Now that’s a stupid thing to say. What’s the point of using the robots if they are to be carried by infantry. Have our infantrymen become so stupid that they need confirmation of what they are seeing from a robot?

      • Guest

        If the infantry is carrying the robots, or using them nearby, then both sides will have been alerted by the presence of each other.

        Geez, I hope our enlisted infantrymen aren’t as dumb as you are.

  • dr. horrible

    Am I terrible at making ungrounded inferences, or did these guys just assert that a CBRN sensor can only do C & B? Because words.

  • thearock

    Neutralize roadside bombs, car bombs and other IEDs…
    Screen vehicles, cargo, buildings and people for traces of explosives…
    Search buildings, bunkers, caves, tunnels and sewers…

    Modular, adaptable and expandable, 510 PackBot is a tactical mobile robot that performs multiple missions while keeping warfighters and first responders out of harm’s way.

    Explosive Ordnance Disposal
    Explosives Detection
    HazMat Detection
    Surveillance / Reconnaissance
    Checkpoint, Vehicle and Personnel Inspections
    Building and Route Clearance
    Emergency First Response

    More than 3,500 PackBot robots have been delivered to military and civil defense forces worldwide.
    Key Features

    Mobile
    Expandable
    Portable
    Easy to use

    510 PackBot easily climbs stairs, rolls over rubble and navigates narrow passages with sure-footed efficiency, traveling at speeds of up to 5.8 miles per hour.

    • Packbots are great but weigh about 40lbs. Not a problem if you have a vehicle. Not a solution if you have to carry it on your back.

  • thearock

    Or according to their website you may contact them directly for additional information. But as I recall radiation detection meters are limited by the size of the detection tube and its electronics. Chem and bio also need something to move air (fan) and reagents to react to a presents i.e. bugs and gas.

  • hibeam

    With the minimum wage pushed to $15 an hour burger flipping robots will soon appear in restaurants. This sounds like I’m joking but I’m not. Google and others will make it happen sooner than you think. Menial jobs will become robot jobs. As they should.

    • jaf

      And you will happily support all the menial laborers that need socialized shelter, food and clothing. Not to mention healthcare.
      Robots doing menial tasks create a whole new set of social problems. But lords never really cared about the serfs until they became revolting.

      • hibeam

        Well we could get rid of tractors. That would create millions of jobs right there. Let try to stop the future from coming.

    • Guest

      Burger flippers in restaurants are already robots for most purposes, as are many in Congress, perhaps more so.

    • steve

      Geez Hibeam, if your right what the hell are the uneducated and all those that reuse to upgrade their capabilities and Intelligence? No, I didn’t forget hose that will operate the robots, but then again that may take may take more brains that may be available??? I can see the robot operators demanding $25-$30 dollars/hr……….

  • steve

    Who knows Guest, this might the answer to replace a majority of those presently in the military? How will this affect any of your future? Oh don’t worry about me, I am very well qualified, and very well prepared….. aside from the comments made from the peanut galleries on this blog….

    • Garymc

      Sometimes I feel like a nut and sometimes I don’t!

  • MST
  • Robot Mafia Member

    I used to repair these systems in country. The teams operating these robots know to pick up the pieces if it gets destroyed, they have to turn that stuff in as accountable property. Hard for civilians to understand, but our warriors actually have a sense of accountability and they make every effort to ensure that stuff like this does not fall into hands that will use it against them- it’s in their best interest to do so if they want to feel safer.
    On another note, yes contractors do most of the work repairing these, but not at some astronomical pay scale as you imagine. Maybe the manufacturer gets payed huge sums, but the contractor pay scale for the robot shops is just about what the average Soldier or Marine is getting paid during deployment- I can say that because I was one of those getting paid to fix them. We had Soldiers and Marines working side by side with us in the shops, we taught them how to do what we do. Not all contractors are money whores, most of us were retired military and enjoyed the work, it was not all about the money.

  • Guest

    Robot Mafia. Thanks for raising the level of discourse. It’s nice when someone actually knows what they’re talking about.