With the launch of the Warrior, a large wheeled robot with a hefty mechanical arm, military robots just got significantly larger and more adaptable. The robot rides on caterpillar tracks like a tank. It can climb stairs and cover rough terrain, and perform tasks ranging from the delicate (opening car doors) to the destructive (smashing car windows) with its two-meter-long mechanical arm.
Warrior is the latest invention from iRobot, the Bedford, Massachusetts, company best known for the Roomba robotic vacuum, and its line of remote-control PackBots, used by U.S. combat forces to disable improvised explosive devices and perform other dangerous tasks. The robot could be weaponized—in one test it launched a rocket that trailed explosives behind it to clear mines or other obstacles (see video).
Warrior, at just over 450 pounds, including its arm, is more than five times as heavy and much larger and stronger than a PackBot. That means Warrior can be much more of a generalist, says Tim Trainer, iRobot's vice president of operations for government and industrial robots. "With the small robots, you really have to optimize them for specific missions. With Warrior, you can provide more flexibility."