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October 22, 2013 9:20 pm

U.S. Dept of Defense Orders Israeli Made Stair-Climbing Micro-Robots

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Roboteam's Micro Tactical Ground Robot, in action. Photo: Roboteam.

Roboteam's Micro Tactical Ground Robot, in action. Photo: Roboteam.

Israeli robot maker Roboteam Ltd. won a fast track deal with the U.S. Department of Defense to supply it with stair-climbing micro-robots, the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office said, U.S. defense magazine Defense News reported.

Roboteam’s Micro Tactical Ground Robot is being rapidly deployed to special operations forces, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other users in parallel to ongoing operational tests by the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s CTTSO, the authority managing the program on behalf of the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said it has earmarked 100 robots for “priority fielding” to special ops forces and EOD war fighters, while another 35 are destined for domestic use by interagency tactical units.

Fast-tracked testing and fielding of the Israeli-designed system is part of a 40-month Pentagon program that extends through 2015 at an estimated cost of $15.7 million, it said.

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The robot, designed in Tel Aviv, but manufactured in McLean, Virginia, by subsidiary Roboteam Inc., weighs less than nine kg, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb stairs and conduct complex maneuvers in extreme terrain. It has a top speed of 3.2 km/h.

The robot has five on-board cameras, an internal microphone and infrared laser pointers and has line-of-sight operating range of 530 meters. It uses secure encrypted radio voice and video streams to communicate.

Roboteam also produces a 1.1-kg Individual Robotic Intelligence System (IRIS), which functions as a mobile camera for a squad, and can be sent through air vents into a basement or balcony for reconnaissance, and the Probot (Professional Robot), a 120-kg unit that carries nearly double its weight in payload, and was designed for logistics delivery, medical evacuation, and a range of public safety missions.

Roboteam was founded in 2009 by Israelis, co-CEO’s Yosi Wolf and Elad Levy, who are veterans of the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit, while Roboteam’s chairman Air Force Brig. Gen. (res.) Uzzi Rozzen, previously served as Israel Aerospace Industries’s North American president and CEO.

In less than four years, the company has grown to 40 full-time engineers, with parallel production lines in the U.S. and Israel supported by some 100 subcontractors from both countries, Defense News said.

“We operate like a technological Seyeret Matkal,” Wolf said referring to Israel’s elite special operations unit, in Defense News. “Some 90 percent of our workforce has an operational background, with access to the Israel Defense Forces as our backyard for testing.”

“Our added value is the speed at which we can develop software and integrate technologies into ruggedized, reliable and very low-cost ground robots,” Rozzen said. Roboteam is certified as an exporter by Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and works closely with the ministry’s Mafat research and development authority to design systems for Israeli needs.

Israel’s Globes business daily reported on Tuesday that Roboteam, along with 14 other Israeli defense companies, were presenting this week at the Israeli pavilion of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition, which opened on Monday at Washington D.C.’s convention center.

Among the products generating interest, Globes said, are the David’s Sling medium-range missile interceptor system, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Raytheon Company; and the Iron Dome short-range missile interceptor, developed by Rafael, which is being sold as one of the few battle-tested missile interceptor systems.

Globes said the Israeli pavilion at the AUSA Exposition included representatives from Beth-El Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of protection systems against nuclear, biological and chemical threats; Milper Ltd., a manufacturer of rugged equipment for military use; Nimda Group Ltd., which manufactures and upgrades power packs and power trains for military vehicles; Rada Electronic Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of defense electronics, radars, avionics, and navigation systems; Ricor Systems Ltd., a manufacturer of miniature cooling systems for military and civilian use; RT-LTA Ltd., a manufacturer of aerostats for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and communications applications that has worked for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan; Seraphim Optonics Ltd., a manufacturer of unmanned observation posts, electro-optical sensors buried in the ground; Techaya Ltd., a developer of networking and communications equipment for the military and civilian markets; Verint Systems Inc., a developer of data processing solutions with military and civilian applications; and the Ministry of Defense SIBAT – Defense Export and Defense Cooperation.

Elbit Systems Ltd., Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., Israel Military Industries Ltd., and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. have their own pavilions at the AUSA Exposition, Globes said.

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