The iRobot PackBot is a rugged and lightweight, all-weather battlefield robot currently in service with the United States Marine Corps. The system can conduct EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), reconnaissance and other search-and-surveillance tasks for the military as well as HazMat control, SWAT service and engineering detail for the civilian market. The PackBot has already proven itself a viable companion for the modern warfighter and paves the way for a new generation of battlefield robots to come in the near-future.
The heart of the PackBot is its 3-link manipulator arm that can extend up to 2 meters in any direction to safely disrupt difficult-to-access objects such as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), various types of unexploded military ordnance and land mines among other incendiary devices up to 30lbs in weight. A "Small Arm Manipulator" (SAM) is also offered with a listed 15lb weight lifting limit. The gripper hand can rotate 360-degrees and handle objects the size of baseballs. The user operates the PackBot remotely via a two-hand ergonomic controller (modeled after a game console gamepad) that features security key encryption to help keep out unwanted users. An optional fiber spooler in the rear of the PackBot chassis manages the release of the optional communications fiber cable to ensure tangle-free operation when in-the-field. The operator manages the PackBot facility by way of a laptop-type interface system with integrated keyboard. The chassis is propelled via a track system mounted to either side of the design. A positional triangular-shaped track extension system fitted to the front of the chassis helps PackBot to manage higher ground that allows for operation over uneven terrain (including staircases, rocky surfaces and loose mud). Grade traversal is limited to 60-degrees.
The chassis system features an onboard computer powered by an Intel Mobile Pentium PC processor that integrates handling and behavioral sensors into the mix via the iRobot AWARE 2 modular intelligence software suite. Sensors keep track of where the grapple arm is at all times to help eliminate the possibility of accidental collisions with nearby structures. The computer is installed with a self-monitoring overheating protection system as well as an integrated GPS, compass, inclinometer and compass.
User-assisted vision is handled by a "Vision and Targeting" camera that features 312x zoom and laser-range finding as well as day/night/low-light vision capability. The camera system can tilt upwards, downward, rearwards and forwards and two cameras can also be fitted to the manipulator arm. The PackBot utilizes a gas detection meter for the purpose of detecting and identifying hazardous Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) sources.
The PackBot can reach optimal speeds of up to 5.8mph in ideal conditions across flat terrain. It sports a height of 7 inches when the system is collapsed and a width of 16 inches with a length of 27 inches with all features stowed. The system, as a whole, weighs in at 24lbs sans the battery pack. Power is supplied by way of 2 x BB-2590/U lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that give the PackBot up to four hours of operation on a single charge, equal to approximately 10 miles of road travel. PackBots are issued with a spare battery pack for obvious reasons as well as a battery charger.
iRobot PackBot marketing material boasts a product with up to 75 available optional accessories for the base 510 series model.
On September 27th, 2011, the US DoD announced a $60,000,000 contract for the procurement of 300 iRobot PackBot systems to include applicable maintenance, parts and repair services. Terms of the contract are slated to be completed on July 27th, 2016.