Cities have become the new battleground and Hybrid or Urban Warfare the greatest threat being waged by ISIS to Boko Haram to Hamas to Ukraine rebels. The terrorists resort to Asymmetric Warfare exploiting the limitations and vulnerabilities of high-tech weapons and platforms, with relatively simple, low-cost countermeasures, tactics, and solutions. Complicating factors in urban warfare include the presence of civilians and the complexity of the urban terrain. Tactics are complicated by a three-dimensional environment, limited fields of view and fire because of buildings, enhanced concealment and cover for defenders, below-ground infrastructure, and the ease of placement of booby traps and snipers.
Security agencies require many technologies for Urban warfare. This includes ground ISR for urban environments made up of sensors, video and tags, command and control and a low probability of detection (LPD). Technologies to allow hidden chamber detection in buildings see through the wall and tool that instantly creates a map of a room, as well as situational awareness tools that allow operators in a tactical environment to use mission planning data, GPS data, handheld radios and other intelligence products in one device.
Throwable Robots are a scouting and surveillance tool for law enforcement and military personnel. They provide situational awareness in unknown and potentially dangerous environments. They can be used to search confined spaces, assist in disposing of explosives, and inspect vehicle undercarriage.
In 2020, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida began using throwable, football-size robots for security training. Called “Throwbot,” security forces airmen at the base can use the device to “see around corners while clearing a building,” which could be helpful in an active shooter situation, according to a release.
First responders on the ground at the Miami Beach-area condo that partially collapsed last week have used several tech tools to aid the treacherous search-and-rescue effort. Rescuers deployed sonar and camera equipment early on as officials scoured the rubble for survivors. Heavy machinery was brought in to remove some bits of the pancaked building materials. Yet, nearly 150 people remain unaccounted for. And officials still have a tedious mission ahead as teams try to avoid falling debris and other unforeseen obstacles.
The Miami-Dade Fire Department has at least two robots in its arsenal that the Massachusetts-based robotics company Teledyne Flir overnighted to assist with the Surfside, Fla., rescue effort. The gadgets are designed to operate where it is nearly impossible for humans to go. Teledyne Flir’s machines have some features that could come in handy as rescuers search through a mound of collapsed concrete. One of its microrobots can be tossed onto unstable rubble and will then roll into crevices humans cannot see or fit into. The company also sent a 50-pound automated machine with an arm to pick up and move around objects.
The throwable “FirstLook” robot weighs about five pounds, is about the size of a brick and is built to withstand 16-foot drops onto concrete. It looks like a tiny military tank, sits on track wheels and has two arms to climb small obstacles. The arms also enable it to turn itself upright when flipped over, according to the company.
“You can take this robot and throw through a window or throw it on a roof, and get to really hard to access places,” Frost said. The larger robot, “PackBot,” is about the size of a suitcase. It is designed to roll over rubble, navigate narrow passages and tote loads under about 40-pounds. They are both built to run semi-autonomously, which means some features are automated, while others require a teleoperator.
Throwable robots are scouting and surveillance tools that can examine a confined environment before law enforcement or military personnel enter. They are designed to be easily transported, are shock-resistant, and can be remotely controlled. Throwable robots have good shock resistance due to their lightweight design and rugged construction. These robots are deemed to be throwable if they can sustain drops to a
basement or be thrown onto a roof. The user can then receive real-time audio and video from a camera typically positioned at the center of the robot’s body.
Many throwable robots allow their users to receive video in low-light/completely dark environments through infrared or low-light filters. Throwable robots can transmit video and audio through indoor obstacles such as doors and walls. The average battery life is approximately 60 minutes on flat terrain. Throwable robots usually emit low noise levels. Some models are water and dust-resistant. Wheels provide mobility to some throwable robots; these wheels can be, and often need to be, replaced due to being thrown or dropped.
There are two important accessories for throwable robots: command monitoring station and tether reel. A command monitoring station enables commanders to monitor video and audio transmissions from a distance of hundreds of feet, allowing them to give instructions to first responders from a distance. The station may also able to receive audio and video signals from multiple throwable robots. A tether reel allows the user to attach a tether to a throwable robot and retrieve the robot once the reconnaissance is completed.
Other accessories, such as a field charger for both throwable robots and their controller and field maintenance kits (e.g., wheels, tails, antennas, etc.) are also available.
Throwable robots are typically deployed in three scenarios– confined space, bomb threat, and vehicle undercarriage inspection. For law enforcement and military personnel, throwable robots can be thrown to a roof, basement, window/hole, attic, or doorway for situational awareness. The user can then search for armed subjects; confirm the number of hostages and their location and wellbeing; listen in on conversations; and examine the layout of rooms. Before deploying their bomb disposal robot, bomb squads can deploy a throwable robot for initial inspection of the suspicious object(s).
Also, explosives might be placed in locations that are not easily accessible to bomb disposal robots, such as a vehicle undercarriage or on a
bus. In this case, throwable robots can overcome these obstacles and provide information to the user. For example, the user can send a
throwable robot underneath a vehicle and search the undercarriage for explosives, narcotics, and other contraband.
For future development, some companies plan to develop magnetized or specialized wheels so throwable robots can climb on hard surfaces such as metal, wood, and brick. This potentially gives throwable robots the capability to climb over the hull of ships so law enforcement can better respond to maritime piracy. There are also plans to add sensors for radiation, temperature, and carbon monoxide etection. Adding sensors to throwable robots increases the weight of the robots and might jeopardize the throwability of the robots.
360 degree spherical view
Traditional cameras force you to see the world as if through a straw – with a limited field of view. Industry has developed cameras that cansee in all directions at the same time. This means one user can look left, another can look right, and if they both miss something behind them they can scroll back in time and replay video from that perspective. Bounce Imaging, they’ve made a tactical throwable camera, but it’s not just throwable. It can be used mounted on a canine, on a person, on a vehicle, and it gives you a complete 360 degree spherical view. They’re working on this in both color and IR [infrared]. And they were working on continuing to miniaturize that technology.
And it stabilizes at all times. Imagine a body-worn camera [on someone] running through a building: You can’t really follow that video. This device kept the video always oriented in one direction that the users requested, and stabilized, at all times. So it really had a lot of immediate use in things like breaching buildings, subterranean investigation, where they could just toss this into a building and get complete 360 degree situational awareness, day and night. “Our new cloud streaming service allows relay from a user’s phone or directly from our new Verizon 4G-LTE-enabled units over secure 256-AES encryption to authorized users anywhere in the world.” This allows a commander in Washington, DC to be providing real-time support to a team in Alaska. Bounce Imaging was one of the product selected by US Army’s xTechSearch as Top 10 Tech Innovators.
The Virtual Eye
DARPA, in cooperation with Nvidia, has developed a way to capture an environment that may be a preview of how VR cameras of the future could work. DARPA’s “Virtual Eye” uses two cameras that each capture not only light but also depth information. By combining the data from the two cameras, the Virtual Eye can reconstruct a 3D model of the environment. In a true VR image, the perspective adjusts according to up, down, forward, backward, left or right movements of the user..
The Virtual Eye, enable soldiers or police to throw a couple of cameras into a building to “digitally map” a room before they enter. They can literally check the interior of a room for number of people, weapons they are carrying, where they are hiding and their activites before barging inside, before they’re even detected by the people in the room.
Trung Tran, DARPA program manager, says “I can do all this without having a soldier endanger himself. Especially when you have adversaries like ISIS who are trying to set booby traps to, in fact, harm the soldiers when they come in just to do the room clearing.” What is interesting about the Virtual Eye technology is that it does not require exotic cameras. Indeed, the demo appears to use two Xbox 360 Kinect cameras (which use infrared to sense depth)
Recon Scout® XT a micro robot produced by ReconRobotics, Inc., has been deployed by US army in Afganistan and Iraq to police SWAT units.
It’s basically two wheels with a thick axle containing a battery and electronics. Weighing just 1.2 pounds and eight inches long, this camera equipped rolling robot can be carried in a pocket and easy-to-deploy system. The controller weighs less than 900 gm (two pounds) and has a 88mm (3.5 inch), 640×480 pixel screen. The robot is constructed with titanium shell and toughened electronics to survive repeated horizontal throws of 120 feet and vertical drops of 30 feet, allowing it to be used for immediate visual reconnaissance of challenging indoor environment as well as rugged outdoor landscapes of dirt, sand and rocks it’s even water resistant.
It is equipped with day cam having 60 degrees field of view and infrared illuminator along with night camera that can see about 8 meters (25 feet). The newer models have also been upgraded to include microphones.Recon Scout XT can transmit video up to 100 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors, day or night.The Police and Military personnel can choose any of three transmitting frequencies that allow operation of up to three robots in the same environment at the same time. The operation requires only pulling the activation pin and a single joystick on the operator control unit (OCU), a tactical team leader or warfighter can then direct the device to move through the environment.
Air Force Wants Throwable ‘Micro-Robots’ for Room Reconnaissance
US Airforce, in a solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website beta.sam.gov in Feb 2021, is asking defense and technology companies for their ideas on “throwable reconnaissance micro-robots.” Each device would weigh roughly one pound, light enough that troops could fling it into a room and then control it with a handheld device, according to the solicitation. The micro-robot should be able to “transmit real-time video and audio … locate and identify subjects, confirm presence of hostages and reveal the room layout,” it adds.
The Air Force detailed a few more specifications, per the request for information:
No longer than 8.3 inches, with a width of 7.9 inches and height of 4.5 inches
Able to climb in “hard-to-reach spaces” and over terrain
Line of sight of 150 feet indoors and 450 feet outdoors
Operate up to speeds of 1.8 feet per .6 seconds
Capable of 110 minutes of runtime and 160 minutes of observation mode, or more
Water- and dust-resistant
Sensors adaptable to low-light areas and equipped with infrared capable out to 25 feet
Capable of carrying or tugging a payload of two pounds or more
Operate on fixed radio frequencies and channels
Has the option to hold a high-definition camera system capable of 30 frames per second