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Qinetiq has been awarded a contract to supply almost 100 Dragon Runner robots, associated spares and technical services to support of current military operations in Afghanistan.

Dragon Runner is a small, rugged robot that weighs between 10-20kg depending on the chosen configuration.

It can be carried by a soldier in a backpack and is robust enough to operate in rough terrain to help protect troops.

The variant selected by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is equipped with a manipulator arm to assist with the disarming of improvised explosive devices, but the Dragon Runner platform can also be configured for a variety of other reconnaissance and surveillance operations.

The robot is also able to operate in sewers, drainpipes, caves and courtyards.

Already being deployed, the Dragon Runner has the ability to send video footage back to the operator at a safe distance, thereby enabling troops to assess a situation prior to moving forward or entering a structure, potentially safeguarding lives.

The robot is particularly suited to operational environments similar to those experienced in Afghanistan, where the road system has been ravaged by almost continuous fighting since the late 1970s and where many troop movements are conducted either on foot or by helicopter.

The use of robots also has significant benefits in Afghanistan, where the United Nations estimates that 200,000 people have been disabled by landmines and other explosive remnants.

Qinetiq’s initial contract with the UK MoD includes the supply of replacement parts and the provision of support throughout the operational life of the systems.

This is an essential part of a UK-based maintenance and support plan that has been carefully designed to enable the UK MoD to return battle-damaged robots to active duty as quickly as possible.

Dragon Runner was originally developed by Automatika, a US company acquired by Qinetiq North America.

The robot has since has been further developed as a result of UK and US military user input and it can travel at speeds of around 5mph, travel over rough terrain, as well as climb stairs and open doors.

The basic chassis is 20cm wide, 7.5cm tall and 23cm in length and can be easily adapted in the field with various accessories and a manipulator arm to be mission specific.

In addition to IED identification and defeat, other functions include perimeter security, checkpoint security and the inspection of suspect vehicles.

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