The Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Technical Research & Development Institute (TRDI) appears to be nearing completion of the Throwable Type Reconnaissance Robot. It’s a little black orb about 50 percent bigger than a softball that Self-Defense Force members can simply toss into environments otherwise hazardous to humans and have a look around before taking action. It looks kind of awesome.

The robot is coated in rubber for protection as it gets tossed through windows of hostage crises situations and rolled into crevices of buildings damaged by earthquakes or explosions. Once it lands where it’s supposed to, two wheels flip out from the sides allowing it to roam around via remote control with a 20m to 30m range (66ft-98ft).

For surveillance, it has a built-in camera with near infrared night vision with a range of about 2m to 3m (7ft-10ft) in pitch-dark surroundings. There is also a microphone on board to pick up any nearby conversations or calls for help such as those from survivors of a disaster.

▼ The world as seen from a Throwable Type Reconnaissance Robot.

Although TRDI is confident enough to publicize this device they say there are still improvements to be made. The most outstanding weaknesses of the robot is its inability to overcome obstacles over 3cm such as steps or larger debris. Also the battery only lasts for about 20-30 minutes of continuous use. TRDI would also like to make the unit simpler so that it could be repaired in the field more easily.

▼ Demonstration of scooting capabilities

However, the unit has come a long way since the first model in 2007 which was the size of a rugby ball and weighed some 2.8kg (6lbs) to become this much smaller capsule with a diameter of just 11cm (4.3in) and weight of only 670g (1.5lbs). The Throwable Type Reconnaissance Robot is currently in field testing and should still see some improvements in the near future.

Certainly this device has the potential to save thousands of live through disaster relief and even to help diffuse hostage situations involving criminals or terrorists. However, if the Throwable Type Reconnaissance Robot fails in hostage-taking situations, we can always send in Pepper to negotiate.

Source: TRDI, Nikkei Shimbun via GGSoku (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – 光月, dragoner JP, RocketNews24