Say hello to Sand Flea — the latest, greatest incarnation in Boston Dynamics' line of military-funded jumping-bots.

Like the Precision Urban Hopper before it, Sand Flea is an incredibly resilient, remote-controlled reconnaissance vehicle, designed for gathering enemy intel for the U.S. Military. The eleven-pound robot was borne out of a collaboration between Boston Dynamics (the company responsible for the unsettlingly awesome Big Dog and PETMAN) and Sandia National Labs.

But Sand Flea improves upon the Urban Hopper on two critical points:

1) Its CO2-powered piston can launch it upwards of thirty feet into the air — that outstrips the Hopper's hops by more than five feet.
2) In the hands of a capable operator, it is reportedly accurate enough to jump through a second-story window.

Both of these advances can be traced back to Sand Flea's new launch system, which requires it to stop, aim, and rear up before liftoff (something it can do as many as 25 times before requiring a re-up on its CO2).

The Urban Hopper, in contrast, was built to launch on the run, with all four wheels on the ground — albeit at the expense of stability and accuracy. The new, more stable launch system also makes recording video from these little recon-bots that much easier. [ieee spectrum]