After competing for more than two years with America's leading robot providers, an Israeli newcomer to the industry through its US subsidiary has snagged a $25 million US Air Force contract to provide its man-portable, stair-climbing, battle-tested system in support of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) missions.
In a contract announced by the Pentagon late last week and confirmed Sunday by Tel Aviv-based Roboteam, the firm's US subsidiary will provide up to 250 of its anti-IED Micro Tactical Ground Robots (MTGR) through 2022.
Established in late 2009 as a boutique provider of optronics, robotics and intuitive imaging, Roboteam beat out much larger and more established US firms Foster Miller, a subsidiary of British QinetiQ; and Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot.
"For the last two and a half years, we've been working intensively to provide the most operationally effective, lightweight, intuitive system that is cost-attractive and very simple to operate," said Shahar Abuhazira, chief executive of Roboteam's North America subsidiary based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
In a Sept. 20 interview, Abuhazira — a veteran of Israel's summer 2014 Gaza war where he served as an infantry company commander in support of the urban, anti-tunnel campaign — said the firm's MTGR has amassed hundreds of operational hours here and in the United States.
“Roboteam North America is pleased and extremely honored to receive this award from the US Air Force and the credit goes to our amazing engineers and the support team," said Abuhazira. "We put the needs of the warfighters first and foremost and I believe the USAF recognized this in their selection process.”
Two years ago, Roboteam's MTGR was tapped for fast-tracked fielding to US special operations forces and the US Department of Homeland Security. The Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) announced in September 2013 that it earmarked 100 of the firm's micro robots for "priority fielding" to special operations and EOD warriors, while another 35 were to be destined for domestic use by interagency tactical units.
According to Roboteam executives, the MTGR weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb stairs and conduct complex maneuvers in extreme terrain.
Billed by the company as the world's lightest EOD platform, the single-soldier-carried MTCG travels at 2 mph, climbs 8-inch stairs and has a line of sight operating range of more than 1,600 feet.
Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser pointers generate intelligence and targeting data a full 360-degrees around the vehicle while an encrypted radio streams secure voice and video back to tactical operators and higher command staff.
Yosi Wolf, company co-founder and co-chief executive, said that from humble beginnings, Roboteam today employs some 70 people, most of them full-time engineers, with parallel production lines in the US and Israel supported by 100-some subcontractors from both countries.
"Roboteam designs, develops and manufactures cutting edge, user-oriented, multipurpose unmanned platforms and controllers for defense, law enforcement and public safety missions. Our team includes dozens of highly experienced engineers that are dedicated to creating units that provide complete operational and tactical control, overall mission management and enhanced force coordination," Wolf said.
An immediate $4.8 million is being obligated to begin implementation of the seven-year firm-fixed-price award, which is being managed by the 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Production will be performed in the United States, with maintenance and logistics work performed worldwide, if necessary.