Staff Writer (Updated: 10/23/2012):
The ANDROS F6A
The F6A weighs in at a respectable 485lbs, features an extending manipulator arm (25lb limit) and four cameras. She is marketed as a "heavy duty" robot with the speed and agility to handle most any task. There is a color camera with full light, zoom, pan and tilt functions. Another camera serves the operator with 216:1 zoom and image stabilization. There is an 80-watt adjustable halogen light and an optional IR lens. The extension arm maintains a third camera with 40:1 zoom capability. There is also a 24-inch camera extender. The two-way weatherproof communications system offers the ANDROS operator full listening capability by way of a microphone and speaker. The gripper arm is fully positional with seven degrees of freedom and can be fitted with optional sensor or weapon systems as needed. Pneumatic wheels can replace the base tracked system without the need for tools to be used in the conversion. The integrated track system allows for traverse across a variety of uneven surfaces including ditches (up to 21-inches), obstacles (up to 18-inches) and stairs (up to 45.75 degree slopes). Three data links make up the communications/control system on the ANDROS F6A. A fiber-optic cable is fed from a spool mounted to the rear of the main compartment. Top speed is approximately 3.5 miles per hour and the turning radius is essentially the length of the robot thanks to its track system. The switchbox can be removed to allow for direct connection to the robot itself. ANDROS accessories include the control station, audio/video attachments, various manipulator arm tools, optional sensors, spare battery kit and maintenance kits.
The operator views the ANDROS actions by way of a 15" LCD anti-glare monitor with picture-in-picture display to access all camera mounts at once. The screen displays current battery life of the console, camera settings and sensor information. The camera feeds can all be recorded and the operator had access to an optional headset display system. Control is by way of joystick.
Other ANDROS Models
The Mark VA1 is similar to the F6A model but is larger and weighs in at 790lbs. The "Mini ANDROS-II" is a smaller cousin to the base ANDROS and weighs just 225lbs. The "Wolverine" is the largest of the ANDROS family line and tops the scales at 810lbs. The "Wolverine V2" was a custom design solution weighing in at 1,200lbs to be used for traversing underground mines for the Mine Safety and Health Administration service. She sports a wheeled or tracked design as required by the operator. The HD1 is another wheeled or tracked design but the smallest in the ANDROS family line at just 200lbs.
ANDROS F6A Walk-Around
The basic body compartment of the RONS houses the battery and motor, controlling the extended RONS functions. One of the four available cameras is fitted to a telescoping "neck" and helps to provide the visual cues and references back to the operator, viewing what the RONS "sees" on his/her LCD monitor display. There are four accessible quick-action rubber-tired road wheels, two to a side. These can be replaced in use by the integrated tracked wheel system to allow for traverse across uneven terrain including staircases. The rear of the body compartment maintains the cable supply along a spool. The main arm attachment is a large, two-finger grappling system with a wide range of movement and plays a prominent role in the handling of explosive ordnance. The RONS provides adequate mobility and close-range manipulation capabilities at a relatively acceptable purchase and operating cost. Each system is directed via a remote human interface a distance away. Communications from operator to robot are held transceiver/received within a secure communications channel.
Current Use and Deployment
Based on a Naval Sea Systems Command report, all four services of the United States military have fielded some version of RONS with over 270 having been purchased in total. Continuous improvements have extended the life of each system and battlefield experience has brought about changes to doctrine. Over a five year span alone, some 35 improvement programs have been run on RONS and EOD teams have seen considerable activity with the systems across Iraq. The RONS program has also benefitted from EOD personnel returning from the Iraqi Theater of War and offering their experiences for future development of RONS systems. Iraqi military forces are also being trained by American personnel in use of the RONS and like systems in combating the IED threat.