VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) teams are required to board pirate ships, ships suspected of smuggling or piracy. The 8-man team approaches the ship in a small boat. If the ship refuses to allow entry, the US Navy must use grappling hooks and rope ladders to enter the vessel – an extremely dangerous moment in the mission. To counter the danger, the US Navy has developed a new robot called “Stingray”, that they can send aboard the hostile vessel before the sailors enter the boat.
Stingray weighs 3 pounds, has tank-like tracks that allow it to paddle on the water (in case it is dropped overboard), and a 185-degree camera with a telescopic carbon-pole that the camera can be mounted on. It also houses a brilliant flashing strobe light to disorient suspects and an infrared light that allows it to see in the dark. It has the capability to carry gas and radiation detectors if the situation requires. It operates on a single battery charge for one hour.
Sailors throw the Stingray onto the boat. Its design allows either side of the robot to act as “up” when it lands and its tough carbon-fiber and aluminum framework can withstand long, hard falls. The team throws the robot onto the hostile ship and use the remote camera to scout out the ship before boarding. The remote control radio unit controls two Stingrays at the same time. While one Stingray is maneuvered remotely throughout the ship, the second Stingray operates independently, keeping watch and alerting the operator if it detects movement.
The Stingray is expected to go into operation in 2013.