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Thread: Unmanned Ground Vehicles

  1. #101

    December 24, 2012 at 8:58 am

    A ”Porter” For Anti-Terror Units

    Posted by newsdesk

    It was designed for combat, but with variations in size and other characteristics it may become one of the anti terror fighter best friends.

    While the Israeli defense forces (IDF) is moving ahead with the testing of the Israel aerospace industries (IAI) field porter REX, anti-terror units are also “looking at it” with great interest.

    The REX is a small robotic platform that autonomously accompanies units of 3-10 soldiers, and is capable of carrying 200 kg of equipment and supplies.

    The IAI REX provides an effective solution to enhance infantry’s combat performance by increasing the capability of the soldiers to carry what they need for their missions.

    The robot is programmed to move in the pace of the soldiers. It can speed up, slow down and stop when they do. The robot can be remote-controlled or walked on a leash – just like a dog.

    REX is meant to carry logistic loads, munitions and weapons and is also designed to overcome various types of obstacles and this in relative silence.

    REX is only one in a series of robots currently in development by IAI and it seems that it caught the attention of anti terror units that have to be prepared to operate under different conditions.

  2. #102

    December 21, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Will the human stay in the UGV operation mode?

    Posted by newsdesk

    Unmanned ground vehicles (UGV’s) can operate without a man in the loop. This means detection of a threat, identification and extermination. Will that happen?

    A decision has not been made, but the potential may be used in cases were elapsed time until a human squeezes the trigger, is not an option.

    Israel is using a very advanced UGV along the border with Gaza. The Guardium is manufactured by G-nius , a joint company of Israel aerospace industries and Elbit systems.

    The border with Gaza is one of Israel’s most tense regions. Hamas snipers, anti-tank missiles and explosives threaten IDF soldiers whose job it is to patrol the security fence on the border.

    The Guardium is unarmed, but is equipped with 360 degree cameras and a loudspeaker. It is highly mobile, which means that it can stream images from various angles and gather more data than a stationary camera can.
    The current fleet of UGV’s operated by the Israeli defense forces (IDF)is controlled by using a remote control unit from a command center monitoring the whole border section.

    But this mode of operation may not be the right one if the Guardium will be used in the future in sites where reaction time is of the highest importance.

    The debate is on and there is a powerful opposition to allow the UGV an operation mode with a man in the loop.

    Proponents of a fully autonomous mode of operation , claim that when a UGV is for example patrolling a perimeter of a sensitive site not on a border and there is a “sterile area” around it , a man is not needed in the loop.
    Last edited by buglerbilly; 24-12-12 at 10:05 PM.

  3. #103

    UGV Technology from Oshkosh Defense to Make MENA Debut at IDEX

    Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK), announced today the international debut of its Oshkosh TerraMax™ unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) technology, which is available to support militaries globally and will be demonstrated at IDEX (International Defense Exhibition and Conference) 2013 (booth #03-C10), on Feb. 17-21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

    The TerraMax UGV technology provides a solution to two primary needs of today’s military customers worldwide. It helps reduce the threat to Warfighters from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on today’s battlefields by increasing a driver’s situational awareness or removing a driver from the vehicle entirely. It also serves as a force multiplier by allowing one operator to supervise three to five UGVs from a safe distance. All this at a time when militaries are facing force reductions.

    “Crew protection is a crucial priority for militaries as they modernize their vehicle fleets,” said Serge Buchakjian, senior vice president and general manager of International Programs for Oshkosh Defense. “Our TerraMax technology gives forces the option to complete missions in dangerous situations with fewer troops. Our UGV technology has been extensively tested and refined, using input from troops and leveraging our more than 90 years of experience mobilizing military forces worldwide.”

    Designed as a scalable kit that can be used on any fielded tactical wheeled vehicle, the Oshkosh TerraMax UGV technology enables vehicles to complete planned missions in full autonomous mode or by “shadowing” a leader vehicle. Oshkosh will demonstrate at IDEX the TerraMax UGV technology’s Operator Control Unit (OCU), a user-friendly control interface that provides the usability and functionality capabilities that troops need for operations in the field.

    The TerraMax UGV technology is highly sophisticated but was developed with the user in mind and for ease of control. Troops can be trained to operate vehicles remotely or in full autonomous mode in only a few days. Vehicles equipped with the TerraMax UGV technology retain their original payload and performance capabilities and can operate for extended periods of time – day or night, through dust and adverse weather – without enduring the fatigue that can afflict human operators.

    Oshkosh also is transitioning technologies from the TerraMax UGV system to provide active-safety features for the manned operation of vehicle fleets, including electronic stability control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and electric power-assist steering.

    Countries throughout the Middle East region, including the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Oman, rely on Oshkosh vehicles for tactical and logistical operations. The company has been supporting militaries in the region for nearly 30 years and has a well-established presence with permanent offices in the United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Oshkosh retains partnerships with industries in select markets and provides the full spectrum of vehicle life-cycle sustainment capabilities through its Integrated Product Support services.

    Source : Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE: OSK)

    Published on ASDNews: Feb 18, 2013

    Read more: http://www.asdnews.com/news-47684/UG...#ixzz2LFJ8zixJ

  4. #104

    LAAD 2013: Earth moves into AGV market

    12 April 2013 - 14:19 by Tony Skinner in Rio de Janeiro

    With an eye on border surveillance and security requirements across South America, one company from the UAE brought its Autonomous Ground Vehicle (AGV) to the LAAD exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.

    Shown to the public for the first time at the IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February, the AGV has been developed by Emirates Advanced Research and Technology Holding (EARTH).

    The configuration on display at LAAD featured an Arctic Cat quad bike fitted with 4x4 tracks, a .50 calibre machine gun and four rocket propelled grenades.

    EARTH senior mechanical designer Johan De Wet said the vehicle had been designed to autonomously carry out border patrol missions, which he noted was a requirement as applicable across South America as it is in the Middle East.

    'Once you start it and let it off, the AGV takes GPS waypoints to patrol the area needed. The operator can wait in his air-conditioned control room and observe what is happening on a TV screen,’ De Wet said.

    The vehicle is fitted with a ‘driver vision enhancer’, comprising three day cameras that provide separate feeds that are stitched together to display a 180 degree view to the operator. The system also includes a thermal imager to see through dust, smoke etc.

    The 800cc petrol engine provides a nominal range of around 200km, although the effective control range would depend on customer requirements and the communication system fitted to the vehicle.

    De Wet explained that when a contact is detected the AGV can switch from autonomous mode to manned mode to let the operator control the reactions as required. The vehicle is equipped with a second sensor suite for target acquisition.

    While the armament fit at LAAD attracted a lot of attention, De Wet noted that the vehicle can be equipped with a smaller 5.56mm remote weapon station, giving it a lower profile, if that was deemed more appropriate to the mission.

    EARTH was established two years ago by former employees of the UAE army’s R&D department.

  5. #105

    The US Army uses a remotely controlled flail robot for route clearance missions in Afghanistan

    The US Army has been using the M160 remotely controlled flail robot built by the Croatian company DOK-ING in Afghanistan for route clearance missions. The Croatian built MV4 remotely controlled tracked mine clearance system has already demonstrated its ability to battle improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and Un-Exploded Ordnance (UXO) in Afghanistan and other war zones like Iraq, Nicaragua and Srilanka. By using the new robot, soldiers can clear routes without putting themselves in danger. Fielding of the M160 MV4 has been a priority of C-IED specialized ‘Task Force Rampant’ for some time now, said Command Sgt. Maj. Leonard Meeks of TF Rampant. The task force is engaged in developing and implementing techniques, tactics and procedures utilizing new technologies and capabilities for route clearing, combating IEDs in Afghanistan.

    The M160 MV4 employs a ‘flail’ system, comprising a rotating shaft with 34 rotating chain hammers attached to disturb the surface of the ground in an attempt to detonate or unearth deadly mines and unexploded ordnance. The flailing action is designed to establish a safe path of travel for dismounted troops in the area. The system is effective in destroying anti-personnel mines on all types of terrain, soil and vegetation. The five-ton MV4 robot is produced by the Dok-Ing Company in Croatia. The company has already deployed more than 100 vehicles in demining operations throughout the world. Apart from the US Army in Afghanistan, MV4 vehicles are also operating in support of demining and route clearing operations with the military forces of Sweden, Iraq, Nicaragua and Sri-Lanka

    The vehicle uses robust frame, with the engine and vital components protected by steel plates to be survive all types of anti-tank mine. Due to its small dimensions the MV4 can be employed in confined spaces, such as house yards, orchards, wooded areas, riverbanks and other types of terrain, which are not accessible to larger machines. MV4 can be fitted with a variety of tool attachments including flails, used as the standard counter-mine tool. Other attachments include tiller, roller, dozer blade or gripper. The different tools are used to destroy even the smallest anti-personnel blast pressure mines and the most dangerous types of bouncing fragmentation mines. The remotely controlled vehicle can clear up to 2,200 square meters per hour when used in continuous mode. The company also produces the MV-10, a larger, heavier system designated to clear anti-tank mines.

    The M160 MV4 is the first of its kind here and is the latest addition to the Mobilization Training Center, the route clearance training program at Fort Bliss. The first detachment from the First Army Division West’s 5th Armored Brigade’s “Task Force Rampant,” recently trained with the new vehicle at Ft. Bliss, as part of their preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. “Having this equipment available to train our reserve-component forces during their pre-mobilization training will allow these units to arrive in their forward-deployed theaters with a unique and critical skill set,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Dorf, Task Force Rampant commander.

    The two-day training event included familiarization training, instruction of field maintenance and basic driving and maneuvering control skills. Following the proficiency training phase, operators were taught how to negotiate obstacles and conducted a practice run over 3,100 meter long test lane. Key to effective flailing was the ability to employ the M160 MV4 using a variable tool speed, the correct downward pressure and gear. Prior to entering the unclear area, soldiers must perform a soil test to check the effectiveness of the settings, and then adjust as necessary.

    Source – Defense-update.com

  6. #106

    UK furthers unmanned engineering efforts

    03 May 2013 - 13:43 by Beth Stevenson in London

    Despite an overall perception of a British engineering industry in stagnation, efforts are underway in the unmanned arena to develop next generation systems to match their US counterparts.

    The University of Southampton is proceeding with several UAV designs, one of which came top in a DARPA challenge last year.

    The Halo co-axial VTOL system beat contenders in the UAVForge trials, which took place from 2011-12, and called for one soldier to be able to carry the system and for it to fly avoiding a series of obstacles.

    Speaking at an Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) UK meeting in London on 2 May, Stephen Prior said the Halo system has a 6.5 km range, 32 minute hover, three hour ‘perch and stare’, modular design, and two mini cameras, one forward and one down facing.

    ‘The legs were designed to land on the apex of a building,’ Prior explained. ‘We didn’t have much success to start with… but we had the best system, I would say.

    ‘We’ve learnt that small UAS are a disruptive technology… they can do lots of things. But we like the idea of smaller, lighter, faster cheaper.’

    The university is also looking at lithium sulphur battery technology for extended performance, micro fuel cells and sense and avoid technology, as well as tethered designs for future development.

    In another example of fledging UK efforts in the sector, WallRover launched its WallRover B wall-climbing UGV in February. It is planning to releasing the advanced A model later this year, as well as the RadBot- a radio-controlled vehicle with an on-board gamma ray spectrometer that provides nuclear ID in hard to reach environments.

    ‘Technically you have a lot of the restraints of an air vehicle,’ Richard Smith, technical director at the company explained. ‘Our current vehicle has a 5kg payload and safely keeps the operator on the ground.

    ‘We created our own little tornado under the vehicle…we found early on that the centre of gravity was far more important than we initially thought.’

    The low pressure under the vehicle is better than stick-type systems he said, meaning that the WallRover can circle 360 degrees without falling down. Initial sales have been to nuclear industry customers.

    CAD 3D printing is used by the company for rapid development: ‘Rapid prototyping is an advantage for creating…components you couldn’t create any other way.’

    He said that the primary aim has been for industrial applications, and although it struggles to find military applications the company considers that the scope of the vehicle would extend to it.

    Meanwhile, Paul Rolfe, VP of AUVSI UK, explained that recent programme changes and cancellations in the US present a bleak outlook for the future of UAV programmes on both the civil and military side.

    The FAA put out a requirement in February 2012 for unmanned systems to be used in law enforcement roles, for which Rolfe said it had not been adopted successfully as of yet.

    He also claimed that the six test sites in which UAVs would theoretically be able to be tested outside of military airspace still had not been established.

    The public perception in the US is also an issue, with 29 states objecting to the use of UAVs in their airspace.

    In the military domain, Rolfe painted a bleak picture, noting that the MQ-9 Reaper orders for 2013 have been halved, while the RQ-4B Block 30 had been cancelled and the Block 40 halved.

    Manned-unmanned teaming has also been a slow grower, while promising programmes such as MQ-8B and C and UCLASS do not have the funding behind them required for them to be executed.

  7. #107

    Heftier Unmanned Ground Vehicle Offers More Lifting, Hauling Strength

    (Source: US Army; issued June 4, 2013)

    DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. --- A small car can't pull a heavy trailer. Sports utility vehicles don't have a compact car's fuel efficiency. A perfect, one-size-fits-all vehicle doesn't exist. The same goes for unmanned ground vehicles, known as UGVs.

    Soldiers use UGVs -- such as the 40-pound PackBot or the larger, 115-pound TALON -- to detect and defeat roadside bombs, gain situational awareness, detect chemical and radiological agents, and increase the standoff distance between Soldiers and potentially dangerous situations. Just as SUVs offer utility smaller cars can't match, larger UGVs provide capabilities not available with smaller platforms.

    The 300-pound iRobot Warrior, developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's tank and automotive center, is a large UGV that offers more lifting and carrying power, as well as the potential for better dexterity to grab items or open and close doors.

    The Warrior's capabilities combine that of a Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center-developed map-based navigation and those of the Warrior's predecessor, the Neomover, which was larger than a PackBot and could perform several dexterous tasks with its robotic arm.


    The development team evaluated Warrior UGVs in several live exercises and a real-life disaster response. In February 2009, TARDEC brought the Warrior to the Cobra Gold tactical exercises in Thailand for an assessment at the Marine Experimentation Center.

    "A group of Marines were part of the exercise and they tested the system's mobility, communication-range capabilities, how well can it go up and down stairs and through corridors and hallways," said Jeremy Gray, TARDEC Ground Vehicle Robotics research electrical engineer.

    At the exercise, the Army tested the Warrior with several infantry mission scenarios including: entry-point checkpoint, vehicle security, building clearance, cordon and search, route clearance, assess mobility and casualty extractions. The Cobra Gold evaluations were vital in helping TARDEC associates determine how to move forward with the platform's development.

    "We learned that the systems needed some improvements before we could get them to a fieldable maturity level," said TARDEC GVR Customer Support Team Leader Lonnie Freiburger. "There were some good data points that showed that if we continued to make S&T investment in mission payloads -- such as manipulators, platform intelligence, power, vision and explosive and chemical detection systems -- we could have a better product."

    The iRobot 710 Warrior with APOBS provides warfighters with a powerful and rugged unmanned system that facilitates the deliberate breaching of anti-personnel minefields and multi-strand wire obstacles.

    Shortly after that evaluation, TARDEC received congressional funding to work with iRobot in the development of two Warrior manipulator arms in July 2009. The arms were required to weigh less than 45 kilograms, have a reach of 1.5 meters, lift a 50 kilogram object and move it 50 meters, drag a 100 kilogram object for 50 meters, dig 25 centimeters into the soil, and turn over a 50 centimeter by 50 centimeter x 4 centimeters piece of concrete. iRobot eventually doubled the lift capacity and extended the reach to 1.9 meters, increasing the weight to 54 kilograms.

    iRobot also developed a mechanism attaching an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System, or APOBS, to the Warrior to teleoperate it into position and remotely fire the munition. The APOBS has two boxes with a line charge with grenades attached at intervals. An attached rocket is shot to lay out the line. The grenades on the line then detonate and clear a path for users.

    The APOBS is a fielded system, but must currently be put in place manually. Because of that, adding it to the Warrior or other tele-operated UGVs meant having to start from scratch.

    "Trying to take a system that was designed for that and adapt it and integrate it to a UGV was a great challenge because the technical reports and training manuals don't have helpful information," Gray said. "We had a lot of questions [regarding the APOBS integration] and asked the developers that made the training manuals, and they weren't even sure. So it was a lot of: 'Let's see if this works.' Luckily, we got through it all without blowing up the robot. It ended up being a success. We had a couple of close calls, but we learned a lot from that."


    After those refinements were made, the team put Warrior to the test again. The congressional funding also allowed them to run more drills at the Navy's China Lake, Calif., facility in November 2009, and then twice at the combined-arms live-fire exercise during 2010 Cobra Gold, outside of Chai Badan, Thailand.

    "It is a really big show. That's when you have air and ground forces coming together from different countries. It's basically one big exercise of one big assault. So you had air strikes and mortar rounds coming into an area," Gray said. "The ground forces used the APOBS for the initial penetration, so the Warrior went up to the concertina wire, launched and blew that out of the way and then the ground forces were able to go in and complete the exercise."

    Currently, one of TARDEC's Warriors is undergoing final software testing. The other is at Re2's facility supporting two small business initiatives TARDEC manages on semi-autonomous door opening and enhanced manipulation feedback. They are also being used to support Gray's innovation project in developing a new gripper design.

    "Re2 is developing an enhanced intuitive control," Gray noted "A lot of the manipulators don't have real fine movement, and they don't have haptic feedback, which is a type of feedback that goes back to the users so they have an idea of what is going on."
    In that light, Re2 is building an end-effector tool kit for the Warrior arm with automatic tool- change capabilities.

    "On the end of your arm, there is some sort of tool -- whether it's a gripper, whether it's a knife -- that they have the ability to change out automatically," Gray explained.

    In marsupial mode, the iRobot 710 Warrior carries a PackBot to approach, investigate and neutralize improvised explosive devices, while keeping personnel at a safe standoff distance.

    An assessment using the Warrior manipulator arm and the Re2 Modular Intelligent Manipulation and Intuitive Control was completed in December 2011 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Scenarios involved opening doors, getting through locked doors and finding a locked device. The tasks were also done with smaller UGVs without the tool-change capabilities.

    Engineers took a unique approach to gather information in terms of what tools to design for the system.

    "We went out to Fallujah, Iraq, when we deployed and took photos of all the tools being strapped onto the robots. This is the ad-hoc stuff that the user is putting on," Freiburger said.

    It makes sense to have conformed hardware designs instead of the makeshift tools added in the field.

    "It sounds like there is an opportunity to leverage what industry is doing, but industry is a little different. They're more focused on very precise tasks in a benign environment. We're dealing with very complex environments. Our tolerances are a little more open than what they have to deal with."

    Tools currently being designed include:

    -- end effectors -- grippers -- for different style of doors
    -- engineering tools for route clearance, diggers and trenchers
    -- small pneumatic sledgehammers that can pick through the ground
    -- wire rakes to pull command wire from the ground
    -- window breakers to do entry control point type of jobs


    In addition to the California and Thailand exercises, iRobot sent two PackBots and two Warriors to Japan after the March 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that left around 19,000 people dead or missing and damaged several nuclear reactors to the point of near failure.

    The PackBots were first sent into a reactor to gain situational awareness, where the investigation found radiation levels of 72.0 Sieverts inside the reactor's containment vessel -- enough to kill a person in minutes.

    Tim Trainer, interim general manager of iRobot's Military Business Unit, said the UGVs stood up well to the conditions.

    "We knew going into the operation that Warrior was a very rugged platform, but we didn't know how much of an effect the high radiation levels would have on the robot operationally," Trainer said. "We're pleased that Warrior has continued to perform unaffected in this environment."

    Workers also outfitted the platform with an industrial vacuum cleaner to remove radioactive debris and further reduce radiation levels.


    Moving ahead, the challenge is building the right size robot for the job.

    "There isn't a perfect robot," Gray said. "Eventually, you're going to have an arsenal of robots, and you're going to pick the one that's going to help your mission the best each day."

    Today, Soldiers primarily tele-operate robots.

    "There are some intelligent features that vendors are selling such as scripts for movements, such as manipulation. Maybe you need to reposition an arm before it can go upstairs. You push a button and the center of gravity is recalibrated from the manipulator for all the payloads and now you can climb up the stairs. Maybe you have a user that is continually picking up objects so now you have a script for that task," Freiburger said. "We know we want to reduce the cognitive load of our warfighters and eventually be a force multiplier."

    For now, engineers are working on augmented teleoperation to improve the operational tempo in any way possible, and continue the quest for improved autonomy and dexterity.

    "A robot is an enabler," Freiburger said. "We're constantly working on improving the touch, senses, and other ways of communicating and understanding our environment. [We're] trying to make the robots more like humans in any way possible."

    TARDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

    RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations.

    Last edited by buglerbilly; 06-06-13 at 02:24 PM.

  8. #108

    US, Allies Test Unmanned Ground Systems

    (Source: US Army; issued July 25, 2013)

    FORT BENNING, Ga. --- The Maneuver Battle Lab revealed a glimpse into the future as the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations collaborated to use one another's robots in military operations.

    The lab conducted an interoperability experiment July 17 at the McKenna Urban Operations Complex to demonstrate how U.S., Turkish and German technical developers could use their respective controllers and integrated software to share and operate other country's unmanned ground systems to complete tactical tasks.

    Jim Parker, associate director of Ground Vehicle Robotics at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., said the use of unmanned ground systems is in its infancy as a military capability, but engineers are making tremendous advancements toward interoperable robotics with NATO allies.

    "Over the last decade, the majority of their use on the ground has been in support of explosive ordinance missions," he said. "What we're looking to do is expand the capability of the robotic platform so they can do more and more to help the Soldiers on the field."

    Tollie Strode, project officer with Unmanned Systems Team for the Maneuver Battle Lab, said after hours of software integration and testing, teams of engineers used the U.S., Turkish and German controllers to maneuver the Talon IV and Turkish Kaplan robots alongside Soldiers through an urban village and wooded environment. Future robots would be able to receive missions and self-navigate in the same terrain while being monitored by operators along scripted paths to detect explosive devices and reduce the risk of injuries among Soldiers.

    Strode said the robots might also be used to complete sustainment tasks such as ammunition and water resupply or medical tasks including casualty evacuation. The ability to use another country's unmanned ground systems presents a wide range of opportunities and benefits in missions ranging from peacekeeping to combat.

    "We're gaining a first step in gaining interoperability with our NATO allies, which is a key thrust going forward as well as providing inoperability standards that allows us to leverage into the commercial industry and give us advance technologies," Parker said.

    Officers and NCOs observed the robots and controllers in action to provide operational feedback about their interoperability. Capt. Stephen Akins, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 199th Infantry Brigade, recently graduated from Captains Career Course and looks forward to future advancement in the field.

    "It's a great opportunity to see the equipment and see what these new robots can do," Akins said. "Instead of having a Soldier take a look at something suspicious, you could have an unmanned vehicle take a look … to avoid injury."

    Maj. James Farrer, executive officer of the Maneuver Battle Lab, said the experiment is a positive step in the process of creating technology that is efficient and effective for tomorrow's warfare strategies.

    "We all look to the future, and we all look forward to collaboration and having commonality and coalitions to make interoperability between nations easier," he said. "I think experimentation, even in its current climate is even more important than before."


  9. #109

    Users Seek Missions For Unmanned Ground Vehicles

    By David Hambling London and David Eshel Tel Aviv, David Eshel

    Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

    August 05, 2013

    Credit: Recon Robotics

    A decade of counterinsurgency operations has boosted interest in unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) of all kinds, although real-world operational uses have been limited. A good many systems have been designed, built and tested, often in the hands of users, but few types have seen routine use, and applications remain narrow.

    UGVs have been widely used, for example, for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). These machines are tele-operated rather than truly unmanned or autonomous, and are short-range systems—they depend on people or vehicles to put them within range of the objective. Simple “throwbots” that provide operators with a view around a corner or inside a building are also catching on, because they are small and light and—with modern electronic hardware and software—can gather and transmit useful intelligence.

    Since the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's first Grand Challenge for driverless vehicles in 2004, UGVs have been gaining attention. Oshkosh Defense's Team TerraMax competed in the second contest in 2005, with the company promoting the use of large driverless vehicles to reduce the number of personnel exposed to the hazards of driving convoys in hostile areas.

    So far, however, U.S. forces have not fielded driverless cargo vehicles, although the TerraMax technology—basically, a guidance, navigation and control kit mated to a modern military vehicle—continues to be developed and evaluated, as Oshkosh collaborates with the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

    Cargo UGVs were deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in a large experiment at Fort Pickett, Va., last summer to demonstrate ways of reducing the Marines' logistical footprint. The vehicles ran safely and successfully at up to 35 mph and on unpaved roads, operated by Marines with three days of instruction. In a later demonstration, two cargo unmanned aerial vehicles operated in fully autonomous mode, and in leader-follower mode with a manned vehicle.

    Israel's Guardium program has also shown that UGVs are practical. However, with a large vehicle, safety is a concern. Accidents involving military convoys and civilians happen in the best of times, and the perception of unmanned vehicles rolling through populated areas is a problem.

    At the other end of the size scale, the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (Jieddo) last year requested up to 4,000 “ultra-light reconnaissance robots” for Afghanistan, in response to a joint urgent-needs statement from field commanders. Unlike their larger cousins equipped with advanced tools for EOD, the smaller machines provide a simple means of looking around a corner or inspecting a suspicious object without risking a soldier's life.

    These small UGVs are especially valuable in dense urban terrain and inside buildings. Users toss the robot through a door or window to check for occupants; they are equally useful in caves and tunnels.

    Jieddo bought 100 each of four contenders for field trials in Afghanistan: iRobot's 110 FirstLook, Recon Robotics' Recon Scout XT, Macro USA's Armadillo V3, and Qinetiq's Dragon Runner 10. Recon Robotics is the smallest at 1.2 lb.; FirstLook and Armadillo weigh 5 lb.; and Dragon Runner is 10 lb.

    The larger machines are generally more mobile, capable of climbing bigger obstacles and carrying robotic arms or other accessories, but they are less portable for dismounted patrols. They do share common features, such as lithium-ion batteries, handheld controllers and cameras with infrared lights. Radio control, which is essentially line-of-sight, works within a few hundred meters.

    The Recon Scout is perhaps the only one that can be described as throwable. The makers say the dumbbell-shaped robot can be tossed more than 100 ft. The low weight also means that with a telescoping rod, Recon Scout becomes a “camera on a stick” for peering into inaccessible spaces. It is the most successful small UGV so far, with 1,300 in use by the U.S. military.

    The defense side of the iRobot company is best known for the PackBot range of larger UGVs. FirstLook, introduced in 2011, was derived from a small UGV called Landroid intended to follow troops and act as a communications relay to increase radio range. Users quickly decided a camera-carrying scout would be more useful.

    iRobot CEO Colin Angle says the cost of small UGVs “should make them cheap enough to be disposable” and distributed in large numbers.

    The incarnations of Dragon Runner have been around since 2005. The DR-10 is the smallest of the family; the larger DR-20 is fitted with a manipulator arm as standard.

    MacroUSA's Armadillo is modular.Options include a stair/obstacle climbing kit, turret with thermal camera, improvised explosive device disruptor; and robotic arm. A maritime version evaluated for anti-piracy operations would be tossed into holds and compartments ahead of a boarding team.

    After evaluation, Jieddo placed a $14.4 million order for the FirstLook 110 and a $12.9 million order for the Dragon Runner 10. However, the decision was controversial, and Macro USA launched a legal challenge to the selection process, which it says unfairly favored other suppliers

    “The government violated acquisition regulations and continues to do so in an attempt to award to whomever they choose or like without regard to quality, cost or performance,” says Bob Ramos, MacroUSA CEO. The company has been successful in five challenges.

    Israel is a leader in deploying UGVs as large as manned vehicles. G-Nius, a joint venture between IAI and Elbit Systems, continues to develop generations of Guardium, the first operational unmanned patrol vehicle, which is deployed along the Gaza border. Guardium's size is not driven by the need to protect occupants from attack, and the vehicle can park and operate at a vantage point for long periods.

    G-Nius is working on the Guardium 3 (formerly called Nachshon), which employs a vehicle autonomy system that can be fitted to wheeled or tracked vehicles of various weights and sizes. The first platform for Guardium 3 is the Ford F350 truck, but the system can be adapted to any vehicle. In fact, the company has tested an unmanned M113 armored personnel carrier employing the same control system. Guardium 3 completed developmental testing and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) placed orders for the systems.

    These vehicles will have a full mission system complement, including remotely controlled weapon mount. Guardium 3 offers expanded capabilities over the original unmanned patrol vehicle, including enhanced operation on the move and cross-terrain mobility.

    The IDF is moving to formalize the UGV procurement process. G-Nius recently partnered with a U.S. company to manufacture Guardium in America, enabling the Israeli defense ministry to order the system with U.S. aid funds.

    Ben-Gurion Airport continues to explore the integration of unmanned ground systems as part of its perimeter security. The robots would be operating in a sterile zone between the outer perimeter and the inner operational area, but bidders are required to meet stringent safety requirements formulated by the IDF's land forces technology branch, which oversees military robotics applications. Once selected, the airport plans to lease the robots from the operating company.

    One system considered for this application is Amstaf 6, by Autonomous Robotics Industries, which has protected the perimeter of a town near Jerusalem. A follow-on experiment is planned at another site in the coming months.

  10. #110

    AUVSI 2013: Unmanned M-ATV up next for Oshkosh

    14 August 2013 - 12:54 by Beth Stevenson in Washington, DC

    Oshkosh has revealed plans to integrate its TerraMax autonomous technology into its MRAP- ATV (M-ATV) platform in response to US Army and USMC requirements.

    The company has experience in applying autonomous or optionally driven technology to other manned vehicles it manufactures such as the 6X6 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement transport vehicle but it is now working to leverage this capability yet further.

    ‘We are in the process of integrating this into our M-ATV vehicle,’ John W. Beck, chief engineer of unmanned systems at the company, told Shephard at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems exhibition. ‘This effort plays well into recent RfI that have been released.’

    The army released an RfI for the ‘Route Clearing Interrogation System’, while the USMC released one for the ‘Route Reconnaissance and Clearance’ programme, last month. Beck confirmed that Oshkosh has responded to both RfIs.

    The army and marine corps have stipulated that specific vehicles will have to be used for the programme, namely the MRAP RG-31 manufactured by General Dynamics for the USMC and the JCB High Mobility Engineer Excavator for the army.

    ‘We’ve started with the core vehicles the operators use…we’ve really targeted the tactical vehicle but the technology translates to different vehicles and sizes,’ Noah Zych, principal engineer of unmanned systems at the company, told Shephard.

    ‘Both the army and marine corps have been experimenting with unmanned technology…and are now realising this effort. UGVs may not do exactly what a marine would but it will do something repeatable and predictable.’

    Meanwhile the company is also anticipating that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), which is currently being procured for the US military, will eventually have autonomous features implemented.

    ‘This is a future truck that this technology will eventually be integrated into over the next 20 years at some point,’ Zych added.

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