Mini-Flail Robot Designed to Destroy Roadside Bombs

By Stew Magnuson

Demining vehicles that use flails to churn the earth and destroy anti-personnel mines date back to World War II.

Now, a Fredericksburg, Va.-based company has created a robot that will move ahead of ground troops and clear a three-foot wide path for them.

The Protector mini-flail manufactured by HDT Robotics can be operated up to 1,300 feet away and is intended to destroy small mines and improvised explosive devices.

“We have designed it to have some sacrificial pieces on it so you should be able to fairly easily repair or replace modules,” said Tom Van Doren, chief operating officer at the company.

The flail head comes off in 30 seconds without tools.

“If it gets blown up, then you’re kind of happy that it wasn’t one of your soldiers,” he said.

It can handle most anti-personnel mines. Explosives intended for vehicles would probably destroy it, though.

“I think we’re going to get a reasonable price point on it,” he said, which would make it easier for the military to swallow if it did blow up into pieces. The mini-flail should compare in price to the Talon or PackBot robots that are used by explosive ordnance disposal teams and are also considered expendable, he said.

Unlike most military robots, it runs on JP8 diesel fuel instead of batteries. That means it can be out in the field for three or four days, Van Doren said. Battery charged robots only last a few hours.

It can also double as a robotic mule and carry up to 1,000 pounds of equipment, he said.

The robot recently came in first during a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization contest at the Robotics Rodeo at Fort Benning, Ga. The Protector was able to detonate a series of simulated buried bombs.

The company only won bragging rights, but “it shows that it is real. It’s here,” he said.

Topics: Robotics

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