March 28, 2012 at 1:58 PM ET
A four-wheeled robot that looks like a kid's geeky remote controlled car is making some impressive leaps that should make the military's top brass giddy with childlike joy. It can leap some 30 feet in the air, high enough to jump onto roofs and over walls.
The idea behind the Sand Flea, from the robotics company Boston Dynamics, is to use it as a tool to send behind enemy lines (or over walls) and capture video with an on-board camera that can be streamed back to soldiers in real time. When it's all done, it simply leaps back to safety.
The Sand Flea rolls around on four wheels until it comes time to make a leap. Then, it rears back on a CO2 powered piston to make the jump. An onboard stabilization system keeps it oriented during flight for a better view and controlled landings. The robot can make 25 leaps before it needs a recharge.
The company is developing it in partnership with the U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force. The Sand Flea is slated for deployment in Afghanistan once it passes safety evaluations.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.