Sand Biscuit

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What would the story of racehorse legend Seabiscuit be without jockey Red Pollard? It might be something like that of any future champion racing camel. The centuries-old sport of camel racing has an unfortunate history of kidnapping and half-starving young boys to act as jockeys. Addressing that issue, the government of Qatar will turn the reins over to robots by 2007. Officials there contracted with K-Team SA, a specialty robot firm, based in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, to design and build remote-controlled, Global Positioning System-equipped robotic riders. In training sessions, such as this one on 25 April, the prototype robot spurred its mount to speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour. The 27-kilogram robot doesn't just look and feel like a real jockey. It smells like one, too. To get the camels to accept a mechanical rider, handlers sprayed the robot with a traditional perfume used by camel trainers. K-Team plans to have 20 robo-jockeys ready for the start of the racing season in October.

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