Monday, June 05, 2006

Guardium Autonomous Border Patrol

By B.C. Kessner From

LOD, Israel--Executives said Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is producing the first operational units of its Guardium unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) system and that sales for international border and military applications should follow soon.

"We are definitely entering the operational phase for this system," Tal Shazar, Guardium's program manager, told sister publication Defense Daily this week here at IAI's facilities, "Things are moving...we are seeing a lot more in the way of RFIs and RFPs beginning to emerge."

Executives said the United States market in particular is very interesting because Americans seem to be most aware of the need. With the continuing debate in the U.S. about border solutions at home and force protection solutions in Iraq, IAI thinks the timing for the maturation of Guardium could not be better.

However, developing (and selling) the concept for the system is even more important than the hardware, Shazar said. "The concept is flexible enough to be almost platform independent."

For example, convoy protection is something IAI has been looking at for Guardium. "What goes out forward (of the convoy) doesn't have to just be a UGV looking like Guardium, Shazar said. It could be something that looks exactly like other vehicles in the convoy, perhaps closed up and with tinted glass, but nothing indicating it is a remote vehicle testing the route or looking for IEDs, he added.

In addition to the convoy and border scenarios--to which Shazar added that the U.S.-Canadian border also presented opportunities for UGVs--IAI is looking to expand military UGV missions from areas such as force protection and forward base security to urban warfare.

"We have deployed [Guardium] several times in operational situations...including realistic and complicated urban settings," he said.
He added. "Now there is a lot of room for imagination and...the robots' presence is beginning to make its way [closer and closer] to the people."

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