The Mini-EOD, referred to as "Devil Pup," can locate, identify and disarm explosives. It's so small and light that a Soldier can carry it in his or her rucksack on a long foot patrol, Army officials said in statement.
Some 300 of them have been in theater over the last few years, at a cost of $35 million, the Army website said. "It's truly saving Soldiers' lives," said Army Acquisition Executive Heidi Shyu, according to an Army statement. "That's the power of robotics."
Shyu also praised the six-ton, M160 Anti-personnel Mine Clearance system, which can clear minefields in urban areas and in many field conditions.
The M160 has "rendered previously unusable roads functional again," said Shyu, who provided the keynote address Aug. 13 at National Defense Industrial Association's Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference & Exhibition.
Shyu emphasized that robots in the future will be developed and upgraded using a common set of technical standards, meaning software and hardware for different systems will be engineered to more easily integrate and work together.
The idea with this approach is to build robots that more seamlessly work with one another and more easily accept new technologies as they emerge. This strategy will allow the Army to better keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.
Near-term Army plans for robots include replacing the Talon Family of Robots with the Man Transportable Robotics System, or MTRS, a process that will take at least seven years, Shyu said.
More than 2, 200 Talons have seen combat service over the past decade, and they're now past their service life, Army officials said.
Both the Talon and MTRS are tracked vehicles, with the Talon weighing 115 to 140 pounds and the MTRS 164-pounds. They can carry a number of payloads used for missions, ranging from EOD to surveillance, Army officials said. The MTRS has chemical detection capability as well.
In 2004, 162 robotic systems were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with a primary focus on explosive ordnance disposal, known as EOD, removal, service officials said.
The use of ground robotics in combat since then has grown exponentially, with more than 7,000 systems currently deployed overseas, Shyu said.
Besides helping EOD, ground robots now carry weapons, cameras and sensors for such things as detecting chemical, nuclear and biological material, Army officials said.