Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Robot gets $286 million Army robotics contract
Article Type: News From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 35, Issue 3.
iRobot gets contract after Army backs out of deal with rival that iRobot had sued
iRobot Corp. won a $286 million contract to supply the US Army with bomb-disarming robots, wresting the deal from a smaller rival that iRobot claimed stole its trade secrets.
Shares of iRobot rose 4 percent after Tuesday's announcement of a deal to supply up to 3,000 of a new, smaller and lighter version of iRobot's track- wheeled PackBot. The contract also requires iRobot to provide spare parts, training and repair services over 5 years.
After rising as high as $19.50 Tuesday, shares of iRobot were up 69 cents to close at $17.88.
Burlington-based iRobot, which also makes consumer robots such as Roomba vacuum cleaners, said it would immediately deliver the first 101 robots to the Army for rapid deployment.
iRobot already has delivered more than 1,200 PackBots, which have disarmed roadside bombs and searched caves and buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some scout dangerous areas before soldiers or emergency responders go in.
Over the summer, the Army held a competition at its Redstone Arsenal in Alabama to draw bids from robot makers. The contract marks a shift for the Army, which has typically deployed robots in limited numbers and only to explosives-disarming specialists.
The new contract will supply a larger number of robots to general infantry for a wider variety of missions.
“This new generation of robots is set to arrive in theater and change the way the Army fights,” said Joe Dyer, President of iRobot's government and industrial robots program.
Robotic FX Inc., a small Alsip, IL- based firm founded by former iRobot employee Jameel Ahed won the original contract September 17, and the news pulled down iRobot's shares more than 20 percent.
iRobot had sued Robotic FX in August, alleging the smaller firm stole its technology and saying Robotic FX used the trade secrets to build a robot it called the Negotiator.
Robotic FX claimed it developed the technology independently.
The Army put the $280 million contract on hold in October, saying it was reviewing whether Robotic FX was a “responsible” choice. Last month a federal judge in Boston granted an injunction barring Robotic FX from using the disputed technology while the case was being resolved.