‘Throwable robots’ serving as ‘smart’ grenades to soldiers in the field

South Korean defense forces are using small, lightweight throwable “smart grenades” that allow their troops to peer over walls, climb stairs and kill enemies from a distance via remote control.

One military official said this new class of lightweight robots is already saving lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“They are giving us eyes-on information in places we can”t get to,” said an official with the Robotic Systems Joint Projects Office, a Michigan-based Department of Defense unit that coordinates all robotic devices used by the Army and Marine Corps, who asked not to be identified, told Discovery News.

“We”re fighting an IED war,” he said. “It”s not so much combat as finding out where the explosives are.”

Their downside, however, is that they can”t carry as many sensor packages, have smaller batteries and smaller range than the big rovers.

The one and a half-pound device looks like a small plastic barbell with two rotating rubber treads connected by a plastic body that houses a radio transmitter, small video camera, and explosive charge.

The smart grenade fits inside a protective shell. The shells are launched by a standard rifle grenade and can travel up to 100 yards to reach its target.

The grenade lands, breaks apart from its shell, skitters across a cement floor and then starts moving around. Hanwha and other defense firms are trying to sell the device to U.S. and European military officials.

The device was on display at the 2011 AUVSI Conference in Washington, D.C.

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