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iRobot receives $7.7m order from the US Navy

Bedford’s iRobot Corp. said Tuesday that it has received a $7.7 million order from the Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, for robot upgrades.

The order calls for software upgrades and the delivery of advanced sensor suites for 248 fielded Man Transportable Robotic System MK 1 MOD 1 robots, the company said. The company said it expects to complete these deliveries by November.

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Upgrades include the company’s User Assist Package, or UAP, which represent a step towards more robot autonomy, iRobot said. UAP brings GPS mapping and semi-autonomous features such as self-righting – if flipped over, the robot will automatically right itself. There’s also a retro-traverse feature – if communications are disrupted, the robot will automatically re-trace its path until communications are restored. Robots equipped with UAP can also hold a heading. That means that on rough terrain, a robot can maintain a constant heading, automatically adjusting for bumps and other obstacles, iRobot said.

Sensor suites include a wide-angle camera and a thermal camera, which can provide greater “situational awareness through increased fields of view and imaging in low light environments,” iRobot said. These capabilities speed up operations and reduce workload for the operator, the company said.

The company makes several kinds of robots. One line is designed for military services and law enforcement agencies. These robots can perform such tasks as scouting out battlefields and detecting explosive devices.

Another Robot line --- a consumer line --- is designed to perform such household chores as vacuuming rooms.

In February, iRobot predicted that the US Army would cut its orders of company robots by half because of Pentagon budget cuts under consideration. Partly as a result, the company has put added emphasis on its consumer robots. In April, it launched a $10 million ad campaign to promote its consumer robots.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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