Bomb-sniffing robots on way to troops in Iraq

W. David Gardner

U.S. troops deployed in Iraq will soon receive help in the form of explosive-detection robots, which can sniff out deadly improvised explosive devices, more commonly known as IEDs. More than 100 PackBot robots provided by iRobot Corp. will be fitted with the sniffing technology, the firm reported Monday.

The PackBots are being fitted with ICx Technologies' explosive-vapor detection know-how called ICx Fido.

"The Fido payload is highly sensitive and, combined with PackBot, makes a formidable and mobile explosive-detection robot that removes the human operator from harm's way," said Joel Roark, a general manager at ICx Technologies. "The digital, modular architecture of iRobot's PackBot enabled rapid and easy integration of the Fido payload."

The robots are funded through a $16.58 million order from the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command for the Robotic Systems Joint Project office at Redstone Arsenal. iRobot said the technology already has been successfully tested in Iraq.

The PackBot has a 7-foot dexterous arm that can reach through vehicle windows to destroy IEDs. More than 800 PackBot robots have been delivered to military and civilian users. The robots have been credited with saving soldiers' lives, according to iRobot.

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