For many consumers, the brand iRobot is most famed for it’s Roomba, the automated home vaccuum cleaner robot. Roomba has been around since 2002 and has since undergone many upgrades and improvements to it’s design. In 2005 it welcomed it’s sibling the Scooba, which washes the floors. The cult TV show Breaking Bad featured Roomba and brought a new found fame to the robot and sales increased. As of February 2014, over 10 million Roomba’s have been sold worldwide.
What many ordinary Roomba fans may not know however, is that iRobot also make robots for the military. They have already provided more than 5,000 of their defense and security robots to armed forces and civil defense personel worldwide and have just sealed the deal on a $4 million order from the U.S. Navy for its model 110 FirstLook robots and accessories.
The FirstLook is a special kind of robot designed to perform persistent observation, investigating and manipulating dangersous situations keeping the operator out of harms way. It is light weight but tough enough to be thrown through a window or down a flight of stairs, and its capabilities are expandable with the addition of different payloads.
Back in 2001 the iRobot PackBot® carried out searches at the World Trade Center after the September 11 terrorist attacks and in 2002 the iRobot PackBot® was deployed with U.S. troops for the very first time. In 2004 they won the contract to develop a Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) and in 2008 they expanded into maritime robots. The FirstLook small, tracked robots are designed to act in a first-responder/special operations capacity. iRobot began manufacturing the 110 FirstLook external link robots back in 2011 and they saw a significant number of orders during the Afghanistan campaign, through its counter-IED robot product range, including to the UK and Germany, as well as the US through the MTRS program. This lucrative $4 million contract between the Navy and iRobot was announced on Wednesday 19th August 2015.
I bought my first Roomba in 2009 when my eldest child was 2 and I never looked back. It busily worked away vacuuming on autopilot, saving me hours of work and the added bonus I hadn’t bargained on was how much it kept my child entertained. He literally spent hours watching it, talking to it and trying to interact with it; as if it was a real-life sibling of his own. That lovely little model lasted 5 years, 2 batteries and a couple of service kits when it finally gave up the ghost and it was time for me to buy a new one. As much as I appreciate the time saved and good job the Roomba does, I was quite disappointed to discover how much the price had been hiked up since my last iRobot purchase. In 2009 I paid £220 for a brand new Roomba direct from the manufacturer, in 2014, this price had tripled, with the newest model costing more than £700. I bought my firt Scooba in 2011 and it is still going strong. I don’t love it as much as Roomba because it is noisy and doesn’t do quite as good a job as I’d anticipated, but in general it’s still a massive time saver and quality floor cleaner. In any case I’m quite sure the newest model has improved in efficiency and I’ll definitely be upgrading when the time comes.