What’s next, robotic hoeing?

What’s next, robotic hoeing?

Space travel gave us Tang and Velcro. War gave us GPS, the Hummer and a variety of high-powered firearms.

Civilian use of products designed for the military is nothing new; in fact, most of our greatest gadgets once wore camo. Now, John Deere and iRobot have teamed up to create the R-Gator, an ATV that uses robotic technology to perform dangerous and rugged armed forces missions.

Built with John Deere’s military-use-only M-Gator and off-the-shelf technical bits, the machine is the first of its kind that can be produced quickly and cheaply. In effect, the R-Gator is a cross between an ATV and the Roomba–sans vacuuming power. In fact, iRobot is the manufacturer of the disc-shaped robot vacuum that’s all the rage.

The machine uses radar sensors to detect objects in front and behind it, and to help guide it. Front and back cameras provide visual input for the R-Gator’s operator.

In use, both companies say the autonomous vehicle can serve as an unmanned scout, supplies carrier or detecting device for explosives and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The R-Gator should be in full production by mid-2005.

Here’s the speculative part. Given the gradual migration of many military devices over to the civie-side, could the self-guided, autonomous rider mower be around the corner? For now, company officials are committing the vehicle and technology to keeping military personnel out of harm’s way.

For further information on the R-Gator visit www.deere.com.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group