Tiny robots could help urban ops

DARPA Solicitation on 'LANdroid' program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for industry participation in a new program to develop tiny, autonomous ground robots that can act as mobile radio relay nodes during urban operations, according to a June 5 agency announcement.

The program, dubbed LANdroid, envisions a fleet of robots that soldiers can deploy in a city as they move through houses and streets. The idea, DARPA says, is to have these drones form a network capable of relaying radio traffic in a setting often considered challenging for communications equipment.

According to a notional image of a LANdroid included in a DARPA pamphlet, each robot will be about the size of a deck of cards. They must be rugged, lightweight and able to operate for seven to 14 days, the agency said.

The drones also must be inexpensive – about $100 each – so soldiers need not put themselves in danger in order to retrieve them.

DARPA officials will provide information about the program during a July 6 industry day, according to the statement.

Demand for technologies to improve the military’s ability to fight in urban settings has increased in recent years because many of the operations in Iraq take place in Baghdad or other major cities.

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