Marine Corps firefighters from Camp Lejeune and CBRN defense specialists from the 2nd Marine Division recently tested QinetiQ North America’s Talon robot at its fire department training area. The wireless, remote-control Talon robot carried a payload of CBRN tools, including a radiation detector and a non-invasive temperature probe.
Talon robots currently are deployed for improvised explosive device (IED) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), reconnaissance, communications, CBRNE detection, security, heavy-lift and defense missions, said Charlie Dean, director of business development for the company’s unmanned systems group.
“They are rugged robot that can get through wide variety of terrains,” Dean said. “They also allow for the integration of a variety of tools and sensors.”
In fact, they were used at Ground Zero after the 2001 World Trade Center attack and currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, RSJPO, the government organization responsible for maintaining the robots in Afghanistan and Iraq, states that Talon will on average sustain 13 detonations before becoming unserviceable, Dean said.
In the field, the robots are used “to detect threatening airborne or other substances prior to human responders going into those areas,” Dean added.
The standard Talon is 18 inches tall and weighs between 115 an 156 pounds, depending on the payload. It offers joystick operator controls (OCU), an Xbox 360 controller (OCU and laptop), and a quad-screen display. Its arm, or gripper, has 30-pound strength while the heavy lift arm has 80 pounds of strength.
In addition, the robot includes three infrared illuminated cameras as well as an auto-focus, color-zoom camera. The OCU can display a single camera or display images from each of four cameras at one time on the quad-split screen. Dean said it then is customized based on the customer’s needs, which includes installing third-party sensors and other systems.
“We’ve installed sensors that range from biological, to chemical, to industrial, to thermal threats—even those that detect explosive vapors,” Dean said.
Indeed, Dean said fire-department hazmat teams traditionally suit-up responders in Level A suits. Then, they enter the hot zone and hand carry sensors to detect threats might be to other personnel. Instead, hazmat teams are using Talon robots, including at Camp Lejeune where firefighters practiced controlling the Talon robot during a training demonstration. Commanders communicated with a response team through a public address system mounted on the robot, and four mounted cameras transmitted live feedback to a command laptop, according to the Marine Corps.
“Human teams have data then sent them to a secure location,” Dean said. “The data is seen on the laptop as well as the imagery from the video feed. So the responder can see all that data. It also can be hooked up and viewed on a TV.”
Costs depend on the configuration of the robot, Dean said. However, a sensor-loaded robot could cost approximately $100,000.