US military testing amphibious robot guard balls

The United States military is currently testing a spherical robot that is equally at home on land or in water.

GuardBot was originally designed for use in future missions to Mars, but has since been reconfigured to aid broadcasting, reconnaissance or military-based projects.

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The robot balls measure approximately 60 centimetres in diameter, but reports indicate that they can also be constructed in much larger (up to three metres across) or smaller variants. It is capable of being controlled remotely or by following a set of pre-programmed co-ordinates.

GuardBot, which is also the name of the company behind the robot, has emphasised the versatility of its device.

“GuardBot is integrating a variety of defense and commercial sensors in the GuardBot ball-shaped vehicle system which travels on paved road, off-road, sand, snow, sloped surfaces and water,” the company website reads. “GuardBot is the only known spherical unmanned amphibious vehicle systems that can navigate upstream. Its battery powered pendulum motion drive system can operate continuously for eight hours on one charge and reach speeds of 6 mph on land and 3 mph in water.”

GuardBot, which was in development for more than seven years, also contains two semi-transparent hemi-spheres on either side which can be used to carry important equipment. In previous tests, GuardBot has been paired with a laser spectroscope which enabled it to detect explosive chemicals from two inches away.

It also features two high-definition cameras capable of live stream video, and night vision, motion sensors and other scanners can be easily added. An internal pendulum also ensures that GuardBot keeps all of its instruments and sensors in an upright position, even when travelling in water.

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GuardBot has undergone a number of tests with the US Navy and pending additional funding, could see the development of additional features over the next eight to 10 months.