When the U.S. military first got serious about ground robots, it bought up a bunch of 42-pound machines called PackBots. The name implied that infantrymen would just throw the robots in their rucksacks. In reality, the things were too heavy for already-overloaded troops to carry around on the regular. The PackBot’s main competitor, the Talon, was even more of a burden. It weighed a whopping 125 pounds.
Now, there’s a new wave of reconnaissance bots being prepared for combat. And they are radically smaller than the previous generation; the tiniest of them weighs less than a pound-and-a-half. Which means they’ll not only fit inside a backpack, they might even squeeze inside a jacket or a pair of pants. Call them pocketbots.
Both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are expected shortly to issue “urgent” battlefield requests for 3,500 to 5,000 of the micro machines. The idea that these new models can be tossed into a building or over a wall, allowing an infantryman to get a sense of what’s inside a room before he kicks down the door.