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Pentagon Buys $27 Million Worth of Warbots Ahead of Sequester Date

As the final hours before "sequester" ticked away Thursday, another "ticking" sounds was heard deep within the Pentagon halls -- the clickety-clacking of military robotics contracts being awarded.

The Department of Defense announced a pair of such contracts on Thursday. Of the two, U.S. firm iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT  ) won the slightly larger award, a $14.4 million contract to supply an unspecified number of the new FirstLook "throwable" robots, along with spare-parts kits and robot accessories.

Weighing in at 5.4 pounds, and dimensioned 4 inches tall by 10 inches long by 9 inches wide, the FirstLook is a tough little robot that looks like a mini PackBot. It is designed to be tossed through windows and through other confined access points to spy out what's inside through the lenses of four built-in cameras that wirelessly transmit data back to the operator.

A second robotics contract went to the U.K.'s QinetiQ, which has been asked to supply similar Dragon Runner-10 Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicles (MUGVs), along with spare parts, for a total sum of $12.9 million. The DR10s are somewhat larger and heavier than the FirstLooks -- 5.8 inches tall by 15 inches long by 13.5 inches wide, and weighing 10 pounds. QinetiQ has designed these, too, as throwable robots for checking out confined spaces from a safe distance.

The two sets of warbots are scheduled to arrive within just days of each other, with iRobot's FirstLooks being delivered Aug. 20, and QinetiQ's DR10s arriving Aug. 25.


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