The robotic ears of the U.S. Army just got an upgrade: now robots don’t have to be right next to a wall to detect humans breathing on the other side.
The … Cougar20-H “can … be remotely programmed at multiple way points to scan the desired premise in a multi-story building and provide its layout,” TiaLinx boasted.
The remote-controlled robot could save lives as troops battle insurgents in Afghanistan and other regions because it allows them to ‘see’ who’s inside a building before they physically enter. And there’s the possibility that it could be used to fight human trafficking or to help with rescue missions.
Who needs people to guard a nuclear weapons facility when you can build an autonomous robot to do it?
Or, at least that’s what the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was probably thinking when they ordered up three robo-tanks to take on the task of watching over the Nevada nuclear test site.
The first of the robots, named the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS), just started working, according to Wired’s Danger Room, where we saw the story. Two more are scheduled to start their work in other remote locations on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS, which is basically in the middle of the desert) within the next six months.
The NNSA claims in its press release that the new system will save six million dollars in infrastructure and a million a year in personnel and maintenance:
“The robots are a great addition to the NNSS protective force,” said Brad Peterson, Chief and Associate Administrator for Defense Nuclear Security. “The robots allow us to improve security at remote portions of the Nevada National Security Site at reduced costs. Deploying MDARS robots at NNSS is another example of NNSA’s commitment to being effective stewards of taxpayers’ money.”
Most garbage-into-energy conversion systems use incineration or gasification, where the waste is heated in the presence of oxygen to create gases that can be used as energy. The problem is that these systems can only take waste from a single source. Now, the U.S. army will use the PyTEC system, made by defense firm Qinetiq, to convert mixed garbage as diverse as glass and tin into energy.
Right now, front-line troops in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have a proper way to dispose of trash on their bases. Now, one of the 55 temporary bases will get a mobile waste system that will produce 400kW of power and squash the waste product down to 5 percent of its original volume.
What makes the PyTEC system different from conventional methods is that it doesn’t require oxygen—rather, it uses a process called pyrolysis. Therefore, the waste can be efficiently loaded into a column at a rate of 220 lbs of waste per hour. The BBC reports:
In essence it is the same process that happens above a match; heating of the wood releases gases that burn in the presence of oxygen, producing the visible flame.
In pyrolysis, the heating occurs in the absence of oxygen, and the released gases are gathered and stored for later use….
“By providing them with a self-contained waste management capability, we’re reducing their logistical footprint, reducing the number of body bags, and reducing their fossil fuel usage,” [says Pat McGlead, waste management business development manager for Qinetiq].
This technology isn’t new: Previously a U.K. navy ship was outfitted with a similar system. However, some tweaks have since been made to make it more portable for military use. The device need not be limited to the battlefield—if used in cities, it could reduce the amount of waste by 95 percent.
80beats: Could A New Generation of Power Plants Turn Nuclear Waste Into Clean Fuel?
Discoblog: Could Poop Fuel Our Future? New Sewage-Powered Buses Hint at Yes
Image: flickr/ The U.S. Army