I once seriously considered buying a robotic vacuum cleaner. It's called the Roomba, and it's made by iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT). My wife said we already had a robotic cleaning device -- it's called the Husband. I got the hint, but I didn't lose my fascination with the idea of a robot doing my dirty work. The Defense Department seems to have had the same idea. This past April, the U.S. Navy awarded iRobot a $230 million contract for bomb disposal robots. Given this apparent interest, I thought I'd take a closer look to see if Foolish investors could make a buck with the company's shares.

iRobot earned more than 57% of its revenues last year from its consumer line -- such as the Roomba for vacuuming, and the Scooba for floor washing -- and more than 38% from the government for bomb disposal and surveillance robots. Aquatic iRobot devices were even used during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to monitor the presence of oil beneath the surface and threats to marine life. The rest of its revenues were earned from research and development contracts.

This is a company that's been able to make a go of it in the young robotics industry. Serving both the consumer and military worlds hedges the real possibility of losing government contracts or stumbling with its home products.

iRobot's competition comes from two fronts: first, from giant defense contractor General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), which builds midsize military robots, and from the much smaller private company ReconRobotics, maker of throwable reconnaissance robots. Second, iRobot feels the heat from makers of traditional vacuum cleaners, such as Electrolux and Techntronic (Hoover and Dirt Devil brands).

iRobot is also gazing into the future by developing an open software architecture so that third-party developers can come up with products to build on iRobot's existing platforms. Right now Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system are able to work with iRobot's application programming interface.

iRobot's revenues and profits have grown steadily over the past four years, albeit with a stumble during everybody's difficult 2009. Free cash flows of $36.6 million in 2010 and $35.6 million in 2009 have given it a nice cushion.

This company is an up-and-comer in the growth industry of police and military tactical robots. It also has an edge with a brand that every Costco customer has seen in the vacuum cleaner aisle. With its diverse products and customers, iRobot is worth considering for your portfolio.

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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no positions in the mentioned companies, but sees the potential in a robotic dog walker/pooper scooper/flamethrower.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, General Dynamics, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of iRobot, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.