Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pirate Droid!

Don't get carried away imagining C-3PO wearing a tricorne.  The company ReconRobotics is now developing a little mechanical bilge monkey to fight--or at least spy on--them Somali pirates.  The technology's pretty cool.  For one, Pirate Droid (its real, current name is "Throwbot") weighs only about a pound and is about the size of a beer can.  It can survive being thrown 120 feet.  The wheels are magnetic and strong enough to go up the hull of a captured vessel and over the side.  Pirate Droid can then recon the vessel for pirates and hostages, equipped with an infrared camera for seeing in the dark.  Existing Throwbots are usually simply thrown by human power, but the company is talking about a "marsupial robot deployment system" (pirate koalas?!?) that would allow them to be launched from a cannon mounted on a larger robotic vehicle such as a "droid chopper" or unmanned boat.

You can see a video of Pirate Droid in action here.

Pirate jokes aside, this technology really could aid in intervention of the Somalis.  Some writers out on the Web have stated, perhaps half-jokingly, that the pirates themselves could use these droids for their own purposes.  Given that the Somalis are now backed by multinational investors, this does not seem out of the realm of possibility.  This is true of any technology, of course.  In this case, however, the ability to scout a vessel without human risk and even without detection seems like a good thing.

And Pirate Droid is cute.  Naming it "Jack" after Barbossa's monkey might work, but this also seems like something Grant Imahara over at Mythbusters would think up, which makes the already proposed "Yarr-2 D-2" slightly more palatable.  Any ideas?

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