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iRobot and Boston Univ. Photonics Center Unveil Advanced Sniper Detection System for iRobot PackBot

Category: Future Technologies

BURLINGTON, Mass. and BOSTON - Oct. 3, 2005 - iRobot Corp. and The Photonics Center at Boston University introduced a tactical sensory system payload prototype, dubbed REDOWL, for the combat-proven iRobot PackBot robot. REDOWL, or Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers, can detect and locate snipers and mortars on the very first shot fired at personnel or vehicles.

REDOWL is an ongoing rapid development program led by The Photonics Center at Boston University with iRobot, Insight Technology and BioMimetic Systems. The technology will be demonstrated publicly for the first time today at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., at iRobot booth No. 1750.

REDOWL is a remote, deployable sensor suite designed to provide early warning information, gunshot detection, intelligence, surveillance and targeting capabilities to military forces and government agencies. The REDOWL equipped PackBot has been field-tested for the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force at a rifle and trapshooting range. Of the more than 150 rounds fired from 9 mm pistols, M-16 and AK-47 rifles from over 100 meters, the REDOWL system located the source of the gunfire successfully 94 percent of the time.

The iRobot PackBot is a Tactical Mobile Robot that can be hand-carried and deployed by a single soldier. Proven in Afghanistan and Iraq, PackBot searches dangerous or inaccessible areas, providing soldiers with a safe first look so they know what to expect and how to respond.

“REDOWL more than satisfies mission requirements to provide advanced optical and acoustic detection capabilities to the U.S. military for use in its growing inventory of unmanned ground vehicles,” said Dr. Glenn Thoren, director of Project REDOWL. “Combining optics and acoustics systems together with iRobot’s PackBot to detect and locate a source of hostile fire or track moving vehicles, day or night, is a first in systems integration for unmanned vehicles.”

REDOWL features an array of optics and acoustic detection systems including a laser pointer and illuminator, acoustic localizer and classifier, thermal imager, GPS positioning, an infrared and daylight camera and two wide-angle cameras. When integrated with the PackBot, these systems enable the robot to accurately detect, locate and identify the origination point of hostile gunfire. These systems also make REDOWL ideal for day and night urban surveillance, reconnaissance, hostage/barricade situations, forward observation outposts and perimeter protection missions.

“Snipers have had the advantage of being effectively invisible – making them a deadly threat on the battlefield and in urban settings,” said Vice Admiral Joe Dyer (U.S. Navy, Ret.), executive vice president and general manager, iRobot Government & Industrial Robots. “REDOWL is a mobile system, which means snipers can run but they cannot hide anymore.”

REDOWL features an Acoustic Direction Finding (ADF) system developed by BioMimetic Systems. The ADF is based on advanced “neural circuits” emulating human hearing and provides accurate detection and bearing information in high background noise environments.

In addition to providing its PackBot robot platform, iRobot developed the software and behaviors for the robot. Insight Technology, a manufacturer of high-performance visible and infrared laser and illuminator systems, is heading up the development of REDOWL’s optics systems. BioMimetic Systems, a Photonics Center portfolio company, is responsible for REDOWL’s acoustic detection and location systems. The Army Research Laboratory is the primary source of funding for the project.


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