The Israeli military new Roni robot has begun its first training for operational trials in urban combat situations, Ynet reported on Sunday.
Robots have only been used up till now by the IDF’s Engineering Corps and some select anti-terrorism units. Roni, an acronym in Hebrew for “dedicated portable robot, ” is the first combat robot to be entering the commando units. In the future it is to be integrated throughout the infantry units.
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The MTGR is manufactured by Israeli company Roboteam, founded by two IDF veterans Yosi Wolf and Elad Levy. Roni wight only 15 kg and can be relatively easily operated by only two soldiers. It travels on two tracks and has a microphone, five cameras that give it a 360 degree view, the ability to carry loads of up to 5 kg (10 pounds), and built-in batteries that power it for up to two hours.
The robot can function on nearly all kinds of terrain, be it rugged with rocks and boulders or built-up areas with stairs and potholes. Roni includes advanced thermal and night vision cameras. In case of complete darkness, it is equipped with special flashlights. The cameras transmit images up to dozens of meters, even when the robot is roaming subterranean caverns or tunnels, Ynet reported.
The United States Army has also ordered 250 MTGR units, worth around $25 million, to help defuse explosives.
Maj. Ehud, head of the robotics department at the IDF’s technology division said that the robots will help protect soldiers by “allowing friendly forces on the ground to know what is waiting around the corner and even further.”
“It operates alongside fighters and is capable of moving with them in the field, recording images day and night, listening, and provides important reconnaissance abilities in urban warfare, ” he added. “This is not a cheap tool, as it costs tens of thousands of dollars, because of the advanced technology.”
Ehud continue and explained: “Operating robots on the ground is more complicated than say, an unmanned aircraft from afar, because on land there are more obstacles and uncertainties than there are in the sky. As such, it is important to emphasize that this is a robot, but one that is operated by a man. The robot does not make decisions alone, and everything it does is directed by its human operator.”
“Before we go any further, we want to experiment first with this robot, get feedback from the soldiers using it, and gain experience operating and maintaining such tools in the field, ” he said.
The IDF already placed orders for dozens of robots and introduced the MTGR in its counter-terror training school.
“The enemy can come out of anywhere and from any building, and the certainty that there isn’t an enemy in houses that soldiers are checking has diminished, ” explained a ground forces officer to Ynet. “Therefore, it became necessary after Operation Protective Edge to put a robot with all the infantry troops that will go in before the forces in built-up areas or on their outskirts or in tunnels.”