A new autonomous unmanned ground vehicle introduced by Israeli companies Elbit Systems and Roboteam, called “Rook,” can carry out a remarkable number of roles on the battlefield.
Elad Levy, CEO of Roboteam, told JNS that the ground robot is tailor-made to client needs through its ability to be assembled in a system of “boxes,” with each box allowing for clients to choose a different kind of capability—much like assembling Legos.
While one box can act as an electrical engine, others can be used for the robot’s communications, surveillance capabilities, remote-control weapons systems and even drone launchers.
Such remote-control weapons have a person in the loop who provides approval before opening fire due to safety protocols.
Rook can be used to evacuate wounded soldiers, conduct forward reconnaissance of the enemy in combat arenas and even act as a “mother ship,” carrying aerial drones or smaller ground robots to a launch point, according to Levy.
In terms of intelligence collection, the field of drones is almost endless and is advancing quickly, but it “requires completion from the ground,” he said. “Of course, in a range of applications like border defense, the combination between these systems brings a significant advantage. The UAVs know how to fly from point to point, but they are limited in flight time, and they are limited in underground locations or under a structure. This is where the ground systems will complete the picture,” explained Levy.
Can carry equivalent of its own weight in payloads
Roboteam’s previous robot, Probot—in service in the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza border, and which has also been acquired by the United States, France and Britain—helped create the expertise that went into making Rook.
Last year, a photo was released by the IDF showing its elite Multi-Dimensional Unit holding a combat exercise with the Probot, drilling an entry into a structure.
“It has 40 percent more capabilities [than Probot] in every relevant parameter, starting with navigability, working time, speed and movement. It is a different system,” said Levy.
Probot was developed together with the Israeli Defense Ministry in order to meet specific requirements, while Rook was developed over the past two years as a robotic system with a range of functions, said Levy.
Rook can drive for eight hours at a speed of 30 kilometers (18 miles) an hour.
“We understand that these systems will be relevant in many applications: transporting the injured, moving equipment, acting as observation systems, weapons systems, communications—you name it,” said Levy. “It sits on software and hardware infrastructure that enables quick integration” to the capabilities that clients wish to install.
It can be operated through an advanced manned-unmanned teaming system made by Elbit, called Torch-X Robotics and Autonomous Systems, or through a display unit that enables a single operator to control several systems.
The system weighs 1,200 kilograms (2,645 pounds) and can carry the equivalent of its own weight in payloads, a remarkable engineering feat.
Clients can link in any remote weapons stations they choose, he said, as well as any sensor needed for the mission.
“This is a brand-new system,” stated Levy. “We are now unveiling it after working on it for the past years. It has not yet been sold, but advanced talks [with potential clients] are underway.”
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