Mini Dragon Runner bot likes being thrown around

Qinetiq North America today launched a more compact, lighter version of its Dragon Runner military robot that can be thrown into hostile environments to reconnoiter before troops move in.

Weighing about 10 pounds and measuring 15 inches long by 13.5 inches wide, the DR10 can be transported in a pack and easily deployed in the field. It's controlled with a wearable interface and has sensors that allow it to operate day and night.

The machine is meant to support small military units and first responders, and can carry out IED disposal missions and conduct surveillance.

As seen in the promo vid below, the DR10 can be configured with different payloads such as cameras, sensors, and robotic arms, and can move on tracks or wheels. It will automatically flip its video images, antennas, and controls after being thrown. … Read more

Qinetiq robo-loaders heading to Fukushima

Robots and Bobcat loaders from Qinetiq North America have arrived in Tokyo, and workers are training with them before being deployed to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which continues to pose a serious radiation threat.

The Virginia-based defense contractor sent 20,000 pounds worth of equipment to Japan this week, including kits that can turn loaders into remote-controlled bulldozers in minutes.

One of the biggest obstacles to getting the Fukushima crisis under control is the continuing radiation threatening workers. This might be a perfect opportunity for robots to help out, but operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) didn't have its own bots to deploy.

Japan's Nuclear Safety Technology Center sent its Moni Robo A, a 5-foot-tall radiation-detecting robot developed by Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, to the plant. But debris from the March 11 tsunami and explosions that damaged buildings have prevented it from being used, TEPCO said in an IDG News report.

From Denver, Bobcat sent T300 loaders that are powerful enough to lift cars, and Bobcat staff in Japan have completed training on how to control them from laptops. Qinetiq also sent its Robotic Applique Kits, which can convert Bobcat loaders to unmanned vehicles in 15 minutes.

"You can attach anything to them, from bulldozer parts to hooks, to move debris," said Qinetiq spokeswoman Jennifer Pickett, who added that the machines should be at the plant site next week. … Read more

Brits use radar to keep runways free of debris

On July 25, 2000, an Air France Concorde ran over a piece of titanium debris while taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport. Minutes later 113 people perished in a ball of fire.

Most airports rely on visual inspections to keep runways clear of foreign objects and prevent what happened in France, but Heathrow International Airport, the world's busiest, has now installed a permanent dual radar system called the Tarsier, which scans 3,658 meters of runway in search of junk 24 hours a day.

The Tarsier uses networked high-frequency, high-resolution radar and integrated digital signal processing to … Read more

Smile, you're on millimeter wave camera

The Transportation Security Administration has purchased a dozen cameras that use millimeter wave technology and sophisticated algorithms to screen crowds of rapidly moving travelers for weapons from up to 20 meters away.

The SPO threat detection system made by QinetiQ measures waves "naturally emitted by the human body," exposing "cold" objects such as metal, plastic, or ceramics concealed under clothing. A red light on the system's display alerts the operator if you're packing, so there's no need to rely on interpreting images on a screen. It also means no one is ogling your … Read more

Gun-toting robots on patrol

Does the right to bear arms also apply to robots?

That's no longer a question for idle speculation. And the answer appears to be a quiet but distinct yes.

These aren't autonomous robots, of course (so begone, you Terminator nightmares, at least for now). They're standard-issue remote-controlled machines like Foster-Miller's low-to-the-ground Talon, which has been put to good use in dangerous places for less-aggressive duties such as finding and neutralizing roadside bombs. That means a human operator well versed in the rules of engagement would make the actual decision on whether to shoot.

But their use … Read more

Qinetiq's Sentry is one stealthy boat

This is not your father's remote-controlled boat.

Qinetiq's Sentry is a unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance craft that the company says "boasts an advanced stealth design" and can hit speeds of up to 50 knots. Only now it's just a little less stealthy as it gets its first public demonstration at DSEi, the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition, taking place this week in London.

We're not exactly sure how Qinetiq will perform the demonstration. The Sentry is much bigger than a rubber ducky, or dinghy even. It's 11.5 feet from stem to … Read more

Photos: Zephyr solar plane

It looks like a giant version of the $2 styrofoam airplane toys you buy at the hobby shop, put together in two minutes, and render utterly useless after just a pair of overzealous throws. But this bird can soar.

So says its maker, the British defense contractor Qinetiq, which is crowing about the 54-hour flight turned in by its Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance flyer. That's a record and then some for an unmanned aircraft, the company says, though it acknowledges the official word will still have to be delivered by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

And did we mention … Read more