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BEDFORD, Mass. – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Research Office have awarded iRobot a new multi-year, multi-million dollar R&D project to develop Chemical Robots (ChemBots). Under this contract, iRobot will develop a soft, flexible, mobile robot that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than its actual structural dimensions to perform Department of Defense (DoD) tasks within complex and highly cluttered environments.

iRobot will lead a team composed of leading technical experts from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to incorporate advances in chemistry, materials science, actuator technologies, electronics, sensors and fabrication techniques into ChemBots engineering. The resulting revolutionary new robot platform designs will expand the capabilities of robots in urban search and rescue, as well as reconnaissance missions.

“During military operations it can be important to gain covert access to denied or hostile space. Unmanned platforms such as mechanical robots are of limited effectiveness if the only available points of entry are small openings,” said, Mitchell Zakin, Ph.D., program manager, DARPA. “We believe that a new class of soft, flexible, meso-scale mobile objects that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than their dimensions to perform various tasks will be quite valuable in many missions.”

This ChemBots award is the latest in a series of DARPA project awards won within the past 10 years. DARPA initially approached iRobot in 1998 to create the PackBot for its Tactical Mobile Robot program. More recently, iRobot received an award under the DARPA LANdroids program to develop a new portable communications relay robot that is small, inexpensive, intelligent and robust.

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