The US Army will spend $35.3 million on 486 iRobot PackBots, the company — best known for its vacuum cleaners — announced today.
The PackBot isn’t so much a killing-machine as a recon robot designed to check out dangerous situations so human soldiers don’t have to. It’s Silicon Valley startup RoboteX that’s working on the killer ‘bots.
The AP reports:
The U.S. Army TACOM Contracting centre in Warren, Mich. ordered 486 iRobot PackBot 510 with FasTac Kit robots — machines that sport long mechanical arms and run on treads — for delivery before March 31.
These 53-pound robots are used to assess dangerous situations and clear a path for soldiers. For instance, it is used in Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate suspicious-looking packages by the road side that might be improvised bombs.
The robots can run as fast as 5.8 miles per hour and last four hours per charge. They are controlled by a laptop with a game-style controller.
The current order is the largest received as yet from the Army’s $286 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity xBot, or IDIQ, contract with iRobot, which was announced in December 2007. The Army can order up to that amount but there’s no guarantee, the company said.
Thus far, iRobot has received $125 million in orders under the IDIQ contract. It has shipped more than 2,500 PackBot robots under this and other contracts.
Shares of Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot fell 45 cents, or 3.9 per cent, to $11.02 in midday trading on Tuesday.