Check it out, frauleins: The German Federal Armed Forces are experimenting with a prototype, satellite-controlled robot that can go on recon missions, while its human operator hangs out in Berlin.The satellite link, which can transmit video at 2 Mbps and receive control channel data up to 128 Kbps, makes the RoboScout something of an oddball in the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) world. As Peter J. Brown notes in the latest issue of Via Satellite magazine, satellite signals are easy to lose in the urban canyons and forested areas where UGVs are likely to operate. Plus, the uneven ground can cause the 'bots to tilt by 20 or 30 degrees in one direction or another -- which means locking onto a satellite gets even trickier. Most robot-makers go for radio-control, instead.RoboScout was one of more than 20 UGVs shown off during May's European Land-Robot Trial -- sort of a Continental answer to Darpa's Grand Challenge, but without the "'winners' and 'losers,'" the organizers note. The machines were put through a series of obstacles during their time under the Bundeswehr's care in Hammelburg -- "stairs, narrow passes, and collapsed ceilings... as well as ditches, fences and fire." And from the looks of the couple-thousand pictures taken at the event, RoboScout (and many of the other UGVs) handled themselves rather well. Achtung!
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