The Stack Archive

‘GuardBot’: Martian explorer robot might get drafted into US Navy as bomb-droid

Fri 20 Feb 2015


The US Navy is trialling the military potential of a spherical robot originally conceived for exploration on Mars. The ‘GuardBot’, by American Unmanned Systems, was first conceived in 2004 as a potential drone resource for scientific expeditions to the red planet. It can traverse a wide variety of terrains including sand, snow and non-level surfaces. And it can swim too…

The engaging little fellow has a diameter of 23.6“ (60 cm) excluding the fish-style dome eyes which house the sensors, weighs 63Ibs (28.5 kilos) and has a top speed of 6mph on land, or 4mph in water. Its 2x 48-volt Li Ion EaglePicher batteries give it 6-8 hours of endurance, depending on terrain. Its eyes are actually ‘payload bays’ which can house assorted types of sensors including laser scanning, video, audio, radio, night vision, CBRN detection and RFID. And, presumably, bombs.

GuardBot is currently being tested by the Marines according to Defense One, stays operational at a temperature gamut of -30C up to +40C, and can reach up to 20mph on a downward incline.

Creator Peter Muhlrad developed the system over sevens years for the Stamford-based private company, and claims that the robot can be produced in sizes ranging from a mere 10cm up to a pretty scary 9-foot diameter. AUS spun off GuardBot into its own dedicated company, now engaged in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the United States Navy. Under this arrangement private researchers can use US facilities to engage in monetisable research, with usage rights granted to the Navy.

Having been conceived for space exploration, the trundling little drone has run through quite other potential careers before considering a future as a bomb-delivery expert. For instance, sports broadcaster/mascot:

…security guard…

…and life-guard:

The ball-droid’s creators will create a bespoke robot according to operational parameters. GuardBot uses a patented nine-axis internal pendulum-motion stabilisation technology to maintain balance, and is only a radical paint-job away from a strong resemblance to the real-life rolling robot seen in the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens.


Older SF fans might see a whitewall GuardBot’s potential to round up tight-mouthed former civil servants.


GuardBot has a German opposite number from Marsch Systems [German language], the FST-50, unveiled at the GPEC international trade fair at Leipzig in 2014, but he’s a more stoic character…



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