How Military Robots Work

Small Bots: TALON

TALON configurations
TALON configurations
Photo courtesy Foster-Miller

The most common robots currently in use by the military are small, flat robots mounted on miniature tank treads. These robots are tough, able to tackle almost any terrain and usually have a variety of sensors built in, including audio and video surveillance and chemical detection. These robots are versatile, with different sensor or weapon packages available that mount to the main chassis. Virtually all of them are man-portable.


The TALON is a man-portable robot operating on small treads. It weighs less than 100 lbs (45 kg) in its base configuration. TALON is designed to be very durable -- one of the robots reportedly fell off a bridge and into a river in Iraq. Some time later, the soldiers set up the TALON's control unit and simply drove it out of the river [ref]. That brings up another important feature of the TALON -- it's amphibious.

TALON is operated with a joystick control, has seven speed settings (top speed is 6 feet/1.8 meters per second) and can use its treads to climb stairs, maneuver through rubble and even take on snow.

Versatility has been designed into the TALON as well, with multiple possible configurations available that adapt the robot to the situation at hand. The basic TALON includes audio and video listening devices and a mechanical arm. A lightweight (60-lb/27-kg) version omits the arm. TALONs were used for search and rescue at WTC Ground Zero, and they have been used in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq for the disposal of live grenades, improvised explosive devices and other dangerous explosives.

Recently, the TALON was prepared to take on an even bigger role. All TALONs are now equipped with chemical, gas, temperature and radiation sensors. The military is even running tests on TALONs that carry guns. "TALON robots can be configured with M240 or M249 machine guns or Barrett 50-caliber rifles," according to manufacturer Foster-Miller.

Assault TALON Assault TALON
Assault TALON
Photo courtesy Foster-Miller

The military is performing additional tests using TALON robots equipped with grenade launchers and anti-tank rocket launchers.

For complete TALON specifications, see Foster-Miller: TALON Robot.