The Marines Are Building Robotic War Balls

A model of one of GuardRobot's amphibious systems.

GUARDBOT

AA Font size + Print

A model of one of GuardRobot's amphibious systems.

The future of amphibious assault looks kind of like an explosive inner tube. It’s really a drone.

Establishing a beachhead on enemy-held turf is historically one of the most dangerous jobs in warfare, just ask Achilles. But the robotic age may make it slightly less so.

A research team from Stamford, Conn. has developed an amphibious drone that they are currently testing with the Marines. The GuardBot is a robot ball that swims over water at about 4 miles per hour and then rolls along the beach, at as much as a 30-degree incline and 20 miles per hour.

It uses a nine-axis stabilization, “pendulum motion” propulsion system, which moves the bot forward by shifting the center of gravity back and forth and a variety of steering algorithms.

It took creator Peter Muhlrad some seven years to develop, but now that it’s complete Muhlrad says it can be rapidly produced in various sizes. Company documents suggest it can be scaled down to units as small as 10 cm and as large as nine feet. The company is planning to develop a prototype that’s 6 feet in diameter.

Muhlrad’s company, GuardBot Inc. has a cooperative research development agreement, or CRADA, with the Navy. A CRADA is a legal framework that allows private companies or researchers to use government facilities, research and resources to build things that are mutually beneficial to both parties. The information that the researcher discovers is protected for up to five years. Under many CRADAs the researcher does not receive money from the government but has the right to commercialize what he or she produces. The government retains a use license.

Here’s the team presenting it at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia, in 2012. Watch it navigate the volleyball pit.

In January 2014, they tested it at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va., where the GuardBot successfully deployed from and returned to a naval craft.

Today, the machine is remotely operated over a 2-8 GHz datalink.

But Muhlrad and his team are working on new software that incorporates geographic information system data, or GIS, to allow for far greater autonomy. Just pick a spot on the map and the ball will get there.

“Depending on if we get funding, we could develop that in 8 to 10 months,” Muhlrad told Defense One.

Muhlrad designed the system primarily for surveillance and object inspection. It’s capable of 360 degree turns so its somewhat more maneuverable than other ground robots. In tests with Smith Detection’s raman laser spectroscope  in the payload (the two small transparent half-spheres on the side of the bot) it was able to detect explosive chemicals from about 2 inches away.

No, unlike a one-armed PackBot, it clearly won’t be disabling explosives. And it won’t replace special operations teams, but it could accompany them on dangerous missions. When Defense One asked if the GuardBot could carry explosives rather than detection or camera equipment, Muhlrad answered simply: “Yes.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.