About six months since it was "drafted" into the IDF, the Roni robot has begun its first operational trials in infantry units.
Robots have only been used up till now by the IDF's Engineering Corps and some select anti-terrorism units. Roni, an acronym in Hebrew for "dedicated portable robot," is the first to be entering the infantry. It will begin in commando units (Egoz, Rimon, Duvdevan and Maglan) and the elite reconnaissance units of the four infantry brigades (Golani, Givati, Paratroopers' and Nahal).
In the future, Roni, who wears a mere 15 kilograms and can be relatively easily operated by only two soldiers, is to be integrated throughout the infantry units.
The robot can function on nearly all kinds of terrain, be it rugged with rocks and boulders or built-up areas with stairs and potholes. Roni includes advanced thermal and night vision cameras. In case of complete darkness, it is equipped with special flashlights. The cameras transmit images up to dozens of meters, even when the robot is roaming subterranean caverns or tunnels.
Sensors installed on Roni's head and laser markers identify enemy weapons, such as bombs hidden in corners of inside tunnels. The operational tests, which were termed a success by the IDF, were carried out in recent weeks in the West Bank and on the Gaza border during routine security operations. In the first stage, it was decided to train the soldiers who will be responsible for the robot during advanced, rather than basic, training.
"The enemy can come out of anywhere and from any building, and the certainty that there isn't an enemy in houses that soldiers are checking has diminished," explained a ground forces officer to Ynet. "Therefore, it became necessary after Operation Protective Edge to put a robot with all the infantry troops that will go in before the forces in built-up areas or on their outskirts or in tunnels."
Each infantry company is expected to have two robots available to the company commander for safer reconnoitering in dangerous territory.