UGV & UGCV: The Rise of the Joystick Army

Discussion in 'Land Forces' started by nrj, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The U.S. Army is planning on mounting joystick-controlled weapon stations on the bulk of its inventory of tactical vehicles, and the defense industry is readying itself for the lucrative contract that will make it happen. The Army’s Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, in Warren, Mich., in 2011 is expected to release a request for proposals for tens of thousands of vehicle-mounted weapons platforms called Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station, or CROWS.

    Army officials say the numbers are not settled but that the order will be much higher than the roughly 10,000 systems currently in the field. Industry players say the total contract could be worth $4 billion. “The Army is now doing the analysis of what other vehicles will get these, and in what numbers," says Rich Audette, deputy project manager for soldier weapons at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., who has worked with CROWS since its inception in the 1990s. “We assume it will not be on every tactical vehicle, but it will be a substantial number."

    The essence of CROWS is to keep gunners buttoned up inside Humvees and larger armored vehicles, but still allow them to shoot with accuracy. The gun crews use a video targeting system and joystick to slew a weapon, including machine guns or missiles, mounted outside.




    As new vehicles are added to the Army’s inventory, like the new M-ATV and the in-development Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, CROWS will be integrated into a certain number of them. Finding that number is the focus of the Army’s current effort. Operations staff and the number crunchers must decide how many, and how quickly, remote-control weapons will be mounted on its vehicles.

    With a massive expansion of the CROWS stations in the works, industry executives are positioning themselves to get a slice of the multibillion dollar contract. Northrop Grumman and EOS Technologies announced this week that they are teaming up to vie for the sales contest. EOS has been waiting for this market rematch for some time. The company supplied about 500 CROWS to the Army, but in 2007, it lost a billion dollar follow-on contract to Norway’s Kongsberg group to supply thousands of an improved system, called CROWS 2, to troops.

    Up-armored Humvees were the first to receive CROWS, but requests from field commanders for remote-control weapons on MRAPs and Abrams tanks followed. The Norwegians, as their orders surged to meet the Army’s increasing demand, set up a CROWS production facility in Johnstown, Pa. The deal (which is structured to release extra orders only if needed, and after the company’s products and facilities pass acceptance tests) seems to be going smoothly—last month the Army ordered $266 million worth of extra CROWS 2 stations from Kongsberg. “We’ve used up all the space on the current contract," Audette says.

    Industry machinations will continue. Kongsberg teamed with another of their foes, BAE Systems, to fulfill the contract. One wonders if BAE will go it alone or preserve the relationship. Another company with real-world experience fielding remote-control systems is the Israeli firm Rafale. There is also the chance that the CROWS 3 Army order will overwhelm any single firm. That could mean more cases of foes becoming partners. “We could have multiple awards on this one," Audette says.

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    Modern warfare will be video game for armed forces... =heheh
     
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  3. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The Army's First Combat Robot - Operational by 2015

    Light combat brigades could be fielded by 2015 as part of the U.S. Army Brigade Modernization Plan. The Armed Robotic Vehicle-Assault (Light) (ARV-A-L) currently in development, could be ready for operation by 2014 and is currently planned for delivery to the first brigades by the years 2014-2015.

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    According to Lt. Colonel Jay Ferriera, Product Manager Unmanned Ground Vehicles, a key system for the ARV-A-L is the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) being developed by General Dynamics Robotics Systems. ANS is scheduled to be ready for Integrated Qualification Testing on these robotic vehicles in 2012, anticipating initial operational capability with an airborne, air-assualt or light brigade by 2014.

    Featuring an integrated weapons and reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) package the ARV-A-L (designated XM1219) will support the dismounted infantry’s efforts to locate and destroy enemy platforms and positions. This robotic platform will support both anti-tank and anti-personnel weapons systems that to be remotely operated by network linked soldiers.

    The 2.5 ton ARV-A-L will be sling-loadable under military rotorcraft. Its chassis is designed as the Common Mobility Platform (CMP) – a common chassis shared by different robotic vehicles developed under Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) program which has not survived the wave of cancellations that followed the termination of FCS.

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    Three larger unmanned combat vehicles were part of the FCS concept from its inception, but these combat capable robots were eliminated from the program in early 2007, in an attempt to save over $3 billion getting the program back on track. Setting the ARV aside for a while may have saved this vehicle, as it was developed 'in the background', and could be brought forward after the entire program collapsed. ARV-A-L is currently part of Capability Package 14-15, which will begin fielding in 2015. The CMP will provides superior mobility built around advanced propulsion and articulated suspension system rendering unique combat advantages, like extreme offroad mobility, and negotiation of complex terrain, cross obstacles and gaps that a dismounted BCT squad will encounter.

    The CMP uses a 6x6 independent articulated suspension, coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel. This design has proved to offer supperior performance, far exceeding that of vehicles utilizing more conventional suspension systems. The vehicle will be capable of climb at least a 1-meter step, far exceeding requirements, and provides the vehicle with the mobility performance and surefootedness required to safely follow dismounted troops over rough terrain, through rock and debris fields and over urban rubble. This technology also allows the ARV-A-L to cross 1-meter gaps, traverse side slopes greater than 40 percent, ford water to depths over 0.5 meters and overpass obstacles as high as 0.5 meters, while compensating for varying payload weights and center of gravity locations.

    Optionally driven vehicles will also become reality by the second half of this decade. Future infantry vehicles like the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) will eventually be operated by the squad it transports, without committing additional crewmen - driver, commander and gunner. The vehicle's systems could be operated from inside the vehicle or by a dismounted team members via remote controls. However, this vision is not het hammered into the current GCV plan or schedule awaiting further maturation of the ANS or comparable technologies.

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  4. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Underground Robot to Blow Up Bunkers : Robotic underground munition

    The US Defense Threat Reduction Agency wants a robot capable of navigating underground—drilling through soil and rock—to deliver an explosive load. A "one-time use, air-delivered, highly mobile vehicle having certain characteristics similar to an unmanned ground vehicle".

    Called Robotic Underground Munition (RUM), this underground robot would first soft land, then start drilling, navigating under the Earth—away from Global Positioning Systems—until it reaches its target. Once it arrives to its destination—obviously an underground man-made structure—the robot would have to go through the last line of defense and explode inside.

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    Robotic underground munition (RUM) is being sought by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Their basic concept is that of a "one-time use, air-delivered, highly mobile vehicle having certain characteristics similar to an unmanned ground vehicle."

    The following technology objectives would move us in this direction, according to DTRA:

    1. Survivable underground communication system.
    2. Capabilities to efficiently overcome natural and man-made obstacles.
    3. Robust sensors and perception.

    Certain other characteristics are desirable:

    1. Payload and fuzing development, integration and demonstration. The payload must be compatible with inflight and ground environments including long term storage under adverse temperature conditions, as well as all DoD insensitive munitions and other safety requirements.

    2. Viable passive and active defensive and offensive systems.

    3. Autonomous underground controls and navigation.

    4. Vehicle control logic to avoid, traverse, neutralize or defeat natural and man-made obstacles.

    5. Safe separation and accurate soft landing form an aircraft.

    The RFI does not identify what a robotic underground muntion would do, but it doesn't take much imagination to see a Mole-like vehicle digging its way to a deeply buried command bunker or weapons site - as an alternative to the air-delivered, brute-force, rock-and-concrete pulverizing Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

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  5. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Boston Dynamics Wins Darpa Contract To Develop LS3 Robot Mule for Military

    Boston Dynamics, developer of BigDog and PETMAN, announced today that it has won a Darpa contract to develop a new robot mule to help soldiers on foot carry gear in the field.

    The robot, called Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, will be able to navigate rough terrain, carrying 180 kilograms (~400 pounds) of load and enough fuel for missions covering 32 kilometers (~20 miles) and lasting 24 hours.

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    Boston Dynamics says LS3 won't need a driver, because it will automatically follow a human leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using sensors and GPS.

    Breeding, er, building the robot will take 30 months and cost US $32 million. The first LS3 prototype is expected to debut in 2012.

    "If LS3 can offload 50 lbs [23 kg] from the back of each solider in a squad, it will reduce warfighter injuries and fatigue and increase the combat effectiveness of our troops," Marc Raibert, president of Boston Dynamics and principal investigator for the program, said in a statement.

    The company, based in Waltham, Mass., is teaming up with the likes of Bell Helicopter, Carnegie Mellon, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others, to develop LS3.


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  6. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    US Army Testing Rugged Autonomous Robot Vehicle

    The U.S. Army's Autonomous Platform Demonstrator, or APD, is a 9.6-ton, six-wheeled, hybrid-electric robotic vehicle currently undergoing developmental and mobility testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; the demonstrator vehicle represents the state of the art in unmanned ground vehicle mobility technology.

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    With its advanced hybrid-electric drive train, the 15-foot-long vehicle, being developed by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, can achieve speeds of over 50mph.

    When equipped with its autonomous navigation system, the APD is configured with GPS waypoint technology, an inertial measurement unit and computer algorithms which enable it to move autonomously at speeds up to 50mph while avoiding obstacles in its path.

    "The vehicle has obstacle detection and avoidance technology," said Dr. Jim Overholt, senior research scientist in robotics, Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

    The mobility testing is aimed at advancing and developing the robot's ability to maneuver at higher speeds while maintaining extreme terrain-ability at lower speeds.

    "We've run it through courses, slope testing and brake testing," said Chris Ostrowski, associate director for Vehicle Electronics and Architectures at TARDEC.

    The APD is currently testing high-speed maneuverability, such as lane changing. "This is a challenging controls problem with a skid steer vehicle. We want the robot to be stable when performing maneuvers like this, but we also want it to retain the other mobility characteristics that it possesses at lower speeds," said Ostrowski.

    Other mobility characteristics include the ability to climb a one-meter step, navigate a 60-percent slope, and pivot turn in place.

    Being a series hybrid-electric vehicle, the APD is propelled by six in-hub electric motors and has a diesel generator which charges its lithium ion batteries.

    "The state-of-the-art hybrid-electric drive train is just one of the mobility technologies we are demonstrating with this platform," said Andrew Kerbrat, APD project manager, TARDEC.

    Other technologies being demonstrated include advanced suspension systems, thermal and power management systems, robotic safety systems, and lightweight hull technologies.

    "We've made a lot of progress with this platform in a short time period. From concept to wheels on the ground was just a shade over two years, and in the eight months since then, we've driven almost 3,000 kilometers and have demonstrated 95 percent of the metrics that we were trying to show with this platform," said Kerbrat.

    APD is the mobility platform being used by the Robotic Vehicle Control Architecture, or RVCA Army Technology Objective, also out of TARDEC. Working with PEO-Integration, RVCA has integrated a suite of system control, display and sensing hardware and software onto APD that allow it to be controlled real-time by a Soldier, or operate in an autonomous mode.

    "It uses a variety of sensors and a Ladar - a laser/radar scanning radar that can detect moving objects at distances," said Overholt. Additionally, RVCA provides Reconnaissance Surveillance and Target Acquisition capabilities.

    "It has a four-meter mast with a sensor ball on top so it goes up pretty high and can see out quite a ways," said Chris Ostrowski.

    "When you combine the autonomy and control capabilities provided by RVCA with the extreme mobility characteristics of APD, it allows the Soldier operator to quickly deploy a mission payload precisely where he wants it, and over some very tough terrain," said Kerbrat.

    "The bottom line is that we are providing the Soldier with a significant capability that will assist him in the performance of his mission, while keeping him safer in the process."

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  7. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    How the U.S. Military Can Win the Robotic Revolution

    One of the great conundrums of war and technology is the odd fact that there is no such thing as a permanent first-mover advantage. Commodore was an early leader in personal computers, developing and marketing the world's best-selling desktop computer, the Commodore 64; it went bankrupt in 1994. The Ottoman Turks were the first to successfully master the use of gunpowder in fluid battle plans, becoming a powerful empire that spanned three continents; soon after, their armies were routed and they were pitied as "the sick man of Europe." Time and again, whenever a remarkable new technology came along, the early leaders soon fell far behind.

    Today, the U.S. military may be wrestling with a similar challenge. In the bureaucratic blink of an eye, it's become a dominant power in the potentially game-changing field of military robotics. When the U.S. military went into Iraq in 2003, it used only a handful of unmanned systems in the air, none of them armed. On the ground, the invasion force used zero unmanned ground vehicles. Today, we have over 7000 unmanned aerial systems in our inventory—48-foot-long Predators, micro-aerial vehicles that a single soldier can carry in his rucksack, as well as lawnmower-size PackBots on the ground and Talons that help find and defuse deadly roadside bombs.

    Such war bots may be part of an important turning point in history. Scientists describe unmanned systems today as being where the horseless carriage was back at the turn of the last century. Chief James A. Roy, the head of the Air Force, says they are the equivalent to the advent of the airplane, while Bill Gates has compared robotics today to where computers were back in 1980.

    Indeed, as much as they seem like science fiction, such PackBots and Predators are merely the first generation—the equivalent of the Model T Ford or the Wright Brothers' flyer. Even so, they are having a huge impact already on everything from when and where we go to war ( the U.S. has carried out over 120 air strikes into Pakistan, using unmanned systems, without any congressional debate) to the warrior's very experiences (a young pilot can now "go to war" without ever leaving Nevada). Even more, the next generations of this technology are becoming ever more intelligent and autonomous, which bodes even greater change.

    The Military's Slow March to Embracing Technology
    Often, militaries are slow to adapt to such revolutionary technologies, including even the sometimes technology-obsessed U.S. military. The machine gun, for example, was invented in 1861, but even with the Civil War raging at the time, it was eschewed by military leaders and wouldn't be used, in fact, for decades.

    Even when the machine gun began to be used widely during World War I, over a half-century later, it still took several bloody years before the generals acknowledged that they had to change the way they planned battles. The devastating firepower of the machine gun meant that charges across no man's land weren't just ineffective, but suicidal. As one French officer said in 1916, after the battle of Verdun left 700,000 killed or maimed, "Three men and a machine gun can stop a battalion of heroes."

    Working in a realm where reliability can mean life or death, it is not surprising that militaries are often slow to adapt to emerging technologies. Indeed, in 1938, when U.S. Army Gen. Hamilton Hawkins lamented the "foolish and unjustified discarding of horses" in favor of the tank, he actually was making what seemed like a pretty good point at the time. Horses had over 4000 successful years of war behind them, while tanks barely had two years of not all-that-remarkable experience toward the end of World War I.

    Change is also slow because of turf battles and bureaucratic wars. Those whose talents or training could become outdated by new technologies will often fight anything that threatens their prestige. The engineers on the early Navy steamships, for instance, weren't even allowed to eat at the same table with the other officers, because to work with such a messy technology as a steam engine wasn't considered worthy of gentlemen who had grown up in the age of sail.

    All these barriers have been in play with military robotics. The Predator may seem like a new technology, but it dates to the early 1980s. It wasn't until after the 9/11 attacks, as the Predators began to prove their worth in Afghanistan, that the Air Force started buying the system in appreciable numbers. Senior leadership was viewed as somewhat resistant to unmanned systems, while the internal culture was less than hospitable. Early pilots assigned to operate the unmanned planes flying out of Nellis and then Creech AFB describe "going kicking and screaming" because of the harm they feared assignment to flying robotics planes would do to their long-term careers.

    Yet, now, this corner seems to have been turned. The current Air Force leadership has gone out of its way to describe unmanned systems as the future of the force. This year, the Air Force will train more unmanned systems operators than it will manned fighter plane or bomber plane pilots combined. And the service has adopted a road map that plans out an ever-growing use of robotic aircraft to the year 2047 (the service's 100th anniversary). The same change is also playing out in the Army, which actually flies just as many unmanned systems as the Air Force, and has its own robotic roadmap out to 2035 which plans for everything from tiny micro-drones to unmanned versions of the Apache helicopter.

    The Perils of Success
    Given that fact that a key mistake in history is the failure of leaders to adapt, the military should be extolled for its embrace of robotics. But, before we honor our (metallic) hands too loudly, we're not yet through the storm. There is a second peril we still have to weather. Often, shortly after overcoming their initial resistance, there is a tendency for leaders to latch onto the next big thing before the exact nature of that thing is actually determined. They choose to change before they know the best choice. That is, adapting to the game-changing nature of a technologic revolution is a lot like falling in love. One danger is to not commit. The other is to commit too early.

    Not only do first movers pay for the original investment in a technology (which their competitors can then free-ride off of), but many make a crucial mistake. They lock into the early design and usage models that worked in the first wave of the new technology, but often turn out to be not the best as the technology progresses. Having met with early success, they forget the standard warning given to mutual fund investors: "Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance."

    A good example of this is the British experience with aircraft carriers. Despite being the leading sea power of the day and hugely invested in battleships, the Royal Navy was also the first to develop and use the new type of ship that took the incredible new technology of airplanes out to sea: the aircraft carrier. But during the interwar years, it committed to a single type of carrier. By contrast, the United States Navy experimented greatly, building three vastly different types. Fortunately for America in World War II, one of those types, a large and flexible ship that carried enough planes both to defend itself and pack a substantial punch, turned out to be the best for the new ways of war at sea. Unfortunately, for the British, this was not the type they had committed their military and industrial shipyards to—and they never caught up.

    The same early commitment and failure to diversify similarly characterized the British history with the tank. This was another science-fiction-like technology (first coined the "land ironclad" By H.G. Wells) that the British invented and were the first to use in World War I. But the Germans figured out how to use it better by World War II. The number of tanks the British had at the end of World War I was 12,000, almost the same number of ground robotics the U.S. has today.

    A worry is that the same historic trend may well be repeating itself today at the Pentagon. At the center of our road maps for a military robotics future is a plan for a remarkable next-generation plane called the MQ-X (the original Predator is the MQ-1, its current replacement is the MQ-9 Reaper, so the X stands for the future, yet-to-be-decided number). As currently conceived, the MQ-X will be a stealthy, faster fighter-plane size version of the current unmanned systems. Even more, it will be a jack-of-all-trades, able to take over the old jobs of not only the first generation of Predators and Reapers, but also of manned planes that range from the U-2 spyplane to the F-16 fighter jet and even to cargo and tanker aircraft. It might carry high-performance surveillance sensors like the next-generation version of Gorgon Stare or Argus (Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance), wide-area cameras able to track 92 different targets on the ground at once. Or it might be equipped in a fighter-attack mode, carrying a retractable cannon, missiles and bombs inside the payload bay. Or the very same plane might be reconfigured to carry a cargo load. As the head of the acquisitions process described, the MQ-X will have the speed and characteristics of a fighter plane, but act like a truck.

    In covering such a range of potential roles, many see the MQ-X as the future of American airpower, and perhaps one of the biggest contracts in the coming decade, not just for unmanned planes, but for the overall aerospace industry. Indeed, each of the major defense contractors that eschewed robotics just a few years ago is gearing up to bid on the MQ-X's development contract, which is rumored to be given in 2010.

    As powerful and persuasive as the MQ-X concept sounds, its centrality is also ringing many of the same warning alarms of past revolutions, worries perhaps made even worse by the problems in the current Pentagon acquisitions system. From the Army's Future Combat Systems, the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, the Air Force's F-22, and the Marines' Expeditionary Vehicle, to their collective F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the current weapons development process has consistently steered toward massive programs, usually described as "too big to fail," that try to meet all needs and are run by a few major contractors, with the Pentagon making a commitment to buy before even the prototypes are fully tested out. In so doing, the process takes so long that by the time the actual weapons are ready to be used in the field, the original need and design parameters have long passed (indeed, if the contract is signed in 2010, even the most optimistic Pentagon schedule doesn't have the MQ-X ready until 2020).

    So, what starts out as a great idea that is supposed to appeal to all ultimately becomes so over-engineered, over-priced and out-of-date that it ends up not being a good option to anyone. You may start out wanting a stealthy robotic fighter jet, crossed with a truck; instead you may end up getting the military equivalent of the Pontiac Aztek.

    Now Is the Time to Experiment
    At the start of this revolution in robotics, it is folly for us to think we have all the answers yet. Back in World War I, the early tanks were visualized as mobile pillboxes, supporting infantry as they marched on trench lines. It later turned out, though, that the technology could be far more effective when gathered together into a single armored punch, a blitzkrieg that moved at a speed well beyond that of a soldier's legs. Similarly, the future of unmanned weaponry may well be jacks-of-all-trades like the MQ-X or robotic Apache helicopters that look and operate very much like the manned and early unmanned versions they are replacing. Or, it might be something as vastly different as the Rand Corporation's concept of PRAWNS (PRoliferated Autonomous WeapoNS). In this, rather than a single large (and likely expensive) plane trying to do it all, the task is divided among a variety of smaller, cheaper specialized robots, much like a swarm of ants at work. Much as no one knew the full potential of tanks back in 1918, we similarly don't know which model of war robots will ultimately win out.

    The answer then is not to turn back the clock on technologic change and cling to old systems or doctrines. Nor is it to leap before looking. Rather, now is the time to experiment, to play the field and be promiscuous with our technologic futures. Whether it's Apple and its i-Initiative or the interwar German Wehrmacht and the over 30 committees and wargames it set up after World War I to learn the lessons of how to best use the new technologies of tanks and airplanes, the winners in these technologic revolutions are consistently those who are studious, but flexible. They are willing to explore and embrace the new, but not commit themselves until they truly have a sense of the technology and the changes it represents.

    For the U.S. military, it means we should focus less now on what the perfect robotic system will look like 20 or 30 years out, fighting for kids not born yet in battles we know not where. Instead, we should return to our own tradition of experimenting, pushing multiple design contests and encouraging vast testing of prototypes, so as to ensure that our current defense purchasing isn't pre-emptively deciding how we will fight in the future, but rather allows us to choose what will be best in that future. And if these winning designs don't come from the current leaders on the manufacturing side, so be it. Much as in the history of automobiles or computers the most innovative and perhaps ultimately effective ideas are just as likely to come from the risk-taking small companies as they are from the market behemoths.

    In sum, the key to successfully weathering a revolution isn't merely being willing to risk change; it's also being able to spread out that risk, so that you end up making the right choice.


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  8. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Thales Introduce Tactical, Multi Purpose Robots

    Thales is introducing three new unmanned systems at Eurosatory 2010 – the Spy Arrow mini-UAV, an autonomous, affordable and backpackable surveillance system comprising a delta-winded miniature aircraft; The company is also displaying the μTrooper Unmanned Ground Vehicle - a multi-role six-wheeled platform carrying a small EO payload, that can operate independently or as part of a pack. Thales is also developing a larger, electrically powered UGV called R-Trooper, equipped with a full UGV sensor suite as well as deploy smaller robots on specific missions.

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    The μTrooper from Thales, can carry a small EO payload or a CBRN sensor operating in an open or built-up area, it can move through obstacles, and even climb stairs up to 18 cm high.

    Thales is introducing three new unmanned systems at Eurosatory 2010 – the Spy Arrow mini-UAV, an autonomous, affordable and backpackable surveillance system comprising a delta-winded miniature aircraft, carrying an EO payload and associated avionics to perform a short, autonomous mission over a pre-planned or user guided path. The Spy Arrow transmits real-time video with geo-location points to provide the warfighter with ad-hoc surveillance and recce of an area of operation. Additional payloads considered for the robot are Chemical Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) detectors.

    The company is also displaying the μTrooper Unmanned Ground Vehicle - a multi-role six-wheeled platform that can operate independently or as part of a pack. The μTrooper is equipped with radio transmitters capable of sending real time video in an urban environment. It employs an open architecture to easily integrate new payloads or systems. The μTrooper uses articulated chassis a six-wheel drive moving it on rough terrain, and even climb steps of 18 cm high.

    Thales is also developing a larger UGV caller R-Trooper, equipped with a full UGV sensor suite, including cameras, radar, 2D and 3D laser scanners etc.). The R-Trooper runs on an electric motor and is virtually noiseless. It can also carry smaller sub-robots for reconnaissance on emplacement of communication relays in an indoor setting. R-Trooper can be used for missions such as observation and reconnaissance, area control and perimeter surveillance, forward logistics, countermine and general force protection including counter IED operations.

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    The R-Trooper, electrically powered Unmanned Ground Vehicle

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  9. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    International robot race heats up

    The hunt for the next generation of fully autonomous robots that can carry out missions in the battlefield of the future is on with a lucrative cash purse on offer.

    The Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC 2010) is jointly sponsored by the Australian and US Departments of Defence to attract innovative proposals from worldwide research organisations to develop next-generation fully autonomous ground vehicle systems that can be deployed effectively in military operations and civilian emergencies.

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    Military robots are not new dating back to World War II with German remote-controlled demolition vehicles however, there is an increasing need for robots to do even more in increasingly challenging environments keeping soldiers out of harms way.

    To make the shortlist for MAGIC 2010, the four Australian and eight overseas technology teams will need to field cooperatives of unmanned vehicle prototypes with the ability to autonomously and dynamically coordinate, plan and carry out tasks against changing priorities.

    To complete the challenge competitors must accurately and completely explore and map the challenge area; correctly locate, classify and recognise all simulated threats; and as if that was not enough, complete all phases within 3.5 hours.

    Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, said a panel of Australian and US Defence scientists will evaluate the robot prototypes developed by the 12 shortlisted teams in Australia, USA, Canada, Turkey and Japan for MAGIC.

    The 12 teams were narrowed down from 23 entries originally received for the competition.

    "The MAGIC Technical Assessment Panel will visit each of the 12 teams over the next few weeks for an intensive evaluation of their concept demonstrators which will result in a list of five finalists," Mr Combet said.

    "The final teams will be announced in July, giving the selected teams four months to refine and continue development of their concepts.

    "Each of the finalists will receive further research grants of US $50,000 to complete their projects for the Grand Challenge," Mr Combet said.

    The Grand Challenge event will be held in Adelaide on 8-13 November with close to US$2million in total prize money up for grabs.

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  10. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    US Army in 2020

    U.S. technologists have revealed that the country's military has plans to have about 30 per cent of the Army comprised of robotic forces by approximately 2020.

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    Doug Few and Bill Smart of Washington University in St. Louis say that robots are increasingly taking over more soldier duties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the U. S. Army wants to make further additions to its robotic fleet. They, however, also point out that the machines still need the human touch.

    "When the military says 'robot' they mean everything from self-driving trucks up to what you would conventionally think of as a robot. You would more accurately call them autonomous systems rather than robots," says Smart, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

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    All of the Army's robots are teleoperated, meaning there is someone operating the robot from a remote location, perhaps often with a joystick and a computer screen.

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    While this may seem like a caveat in plans to add robots to the military, it is actually very important to keep humans involved in the robotic operations.

    "It's a chain of command thing. You don't want to give autonomy to a weapons delivery system. You want to have a human hit the button. You don't want the robot to make the wrong decision. You want to have a human to make all of the important decisions," says Smart.

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    The technologist duo says that researchers are not necessarily looking for intelligent decision-making in their robots. Instead, they are working to develop an improved, "intelligent" functioning of the robot.

    "It's oftentimes like the difference between the adverb and noun. You can act intelligently or you can be intelligent. I'm much more interested in the adverb for my robots," says Few, a Ph.D. student who is interested in the delicate relationship between robot and human.

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    He says that there are many issues that may require "a graceful intervention" by humans, and these need to be thought of from the ground up.


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    "When I envision the future of robots, I always think of the Jetsons. George Jetson never sat down at a computer to task Rosie to clean the house. Somehow, they had this local exchange of information. So what we've been working on is how we can use the local environment rather than a computer as a tasking medium to the robot," he says.

    Few has incorporated a toy into robotic programming, and with the aid of a Wii controller, he capitalizes on natural human movements to communicate with the robot.

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    According to the researchers, focussing on a joystick and screen rather than carting around a heavy laptop would help soldiers in battle to stay alert, and engage in their surroundings while performing operations with the robot.

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    "We forget that when we're controlling robots in the lab it's really pretty safe and no one's trying to kill us. But if you are in a war zone and you're hunched over a laptop, that's not a good place to be. You want to be able to use your eyes in one place and use your hand to control the robot without tying up all of your attention," says Smart.

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  11. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Israelis giving robots the nod for border duty

    The Israel Army is procuring more unmanned ground vehicles for combat missions in border areas.

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    The Ground Forces Command has purchased at least four UGVs for combat missions along the Gaza Strip and Israeli border with Lebanon. The platforms were identified as G-Nius, developed and produced by Israel's Elbit Systems.

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    "We don't need manned patrols along the border," Elbit Systems president Joseph Ackerman said. "We could use UGVs." [On Aug. 5, the Israel Air Force announced the deployment of the Sniper electro-optic reconnaissance system. Sniper, developed in Israel by several defense contractors, was said to enable air defense operators to track fighter-jets at a distance of more than 70 kilometers.]

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  12. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Snake Robomedics in Warzone

    The first 30 minutes after a battlefield injury are dire: that's when nearly 86 percent of battlefield deaths occur. Before attending to the wounded, frontline physicians have to quickly locate the casualty and extract him from the battlefield, often under heavy fire. This can take up costly minutes, as well as expose medics themselves as possible targets.

    Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are developing technology to give battlefield medics a helping hand--literally. Howie Choset, an associate professor of robotics at CMU, has engineered a snakelike robotic arm equipped with various sensors that can monitor a soldier's condition. The robot can be wirelessly controlled via a joystick, so that a doctor at a remote clinic may move the robot to any point on a soldier's body to assess his injuries as he's being carried to a safe location. The robot's serpentine flexibility allows it to maneuver within tight confines, so that, in case a casualty can't be extracted from the battlefield immediately, the robot can perform an initial medical assessment in the field.

    Choset and his colleagues have been building "snakebots" for over 10 years, improving range of motion and flexibility, as well as minimizing the overall size in multiple prototypes. In the past, the group has designed robots for urban search-and-rescue missions, and has worked with Ford Motor Company to build snake robots for precise auto-body painting. The team recently formed a startup company to commercialize one of its latest technologies, a robot that can potentially perform heart surgery.

    Currently, the team is collaborating with the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) to integrate the robotic arm within the military's high-tech stretcher, called the Life Support for Trauma and Transport system (LSTAT). This stretcher is essentially a portable intensive-care unit, with a ventilator, defibrillator, and other physiological monitors, and it's currently being used in areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. Medics can quickly load a casualty onto the stretcher and attend to injuries with the equipment onboard.

    "It has all these sensors onboard so we can perform preliminary diagnostics and maybe therapeutics to save the guy's life," says Choset. "The problem is, these sensors are attached to the LSTAT, and you would have to move them by hand, and if someone's shot and you go over and help them, you're an easy target. So we want to automate this whole system, and robotically move the sensors onto the patient while he's being dragged off the battlefield."

    Choset and his students have engineered a highly articulated robotic arm that consists of multiple actuated joints, which give the robot a snakelike flexibility. Each joint has two degrees of freedom that, working together, allow the robot to flex, retract, and twist into different configurations, much like a live snake.

    Because it's impossible for a person to simultaneously control all the joints on the snake, the team developed software to enable precise control of the robot's movements via a joystick. In lab tests, researchers could successfully guide the arm, mounted with a camera, up and down a skeleton's body using the joystick and watch the resulting pictures on a laptop.

    Choset has affixed various physiological sensors to the robotic arm, including a detector for carbon dioxide and oxygen to test whether a person is breathing. He says that the robot can also sport an oxygen mask and, if connected to the stretcher's onboard ventilator, can potentially maneuver over a soldier's mouth and deliver oxygen, without the help of a medic.

    In the future, Choset hopes to add an ultrasound component to the robot, so that it can quickly scan a soldier for signs of internal bleeding. His team is collaborating with researchers at Georgetown University to develop an ultrasound probe for the robotic arm. To perform ultrasound, Choset says that the robot would require a certain amount of strength and delicacy so that it can determine how much force to apply to gently press a probe against the skin. He and his students plan to explore this robotic challenge in the future, along with other applications for the snake robot.

    Sylvain Cardin, a senior medical robotics scientist at TATRC, suggests that there may be other military applications for the robotic arm. "It could be on a small vehicle you could send into the field, and the medic could attend the patient in a remote location," says Cardin. "So you could be under fire, and could send this little vehicle out with the snake arm, and be able to attend the casualty without showing everyone we're attending the casualty."

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  13. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    iRobot System

    Besides an estimated snowball in sales to the U.S. services, iRobot says it will see advance in its unmanned robot platforms from alien buyers.

    The “Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032,” a bang put out by the Department of Defense last year, outlined an approach to foster costs in unmanned technology for the air, sea, and ground.

    [​IMG]

    iRobot, which has already been supplying the U.S. armed with unmanned robots for use in ground reconnaissance and combat, has repeatedly said it will profit from the military’s improved penury. Nevertheless the troupe now says that as its robots have proven themselves practical in Iraq and Afghanistan, advantage from unknown armed forces has also better.

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    iRobot has sold robots from its line of unmanned military drones internationally to 13 aligned countries, with Australia, Gemany, Israel, and the United Kingdom, since 2006, Joe Dyer, head of iRobot’s Government & Industrial Robots category, told reporters in a Web conference Wednesday.

    The international souk consisted of only a handful of robots sold in 2006, but about 8 percent or 9 percent of iRobot’s utter revenue for unmanned robots in 2007. This year, iRobot estimates that its foreign promote will increase to about 15 percent of its equal revenues for its government and industrial split, according to Dyer.

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  14. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    New 'Terminator' Robots Go in Harm's Way

    IRobot, best known for their cute Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, has teamed up with Metal Storm, purveyors of the million-rounds-per-minute electric gun, to create a slick, Terminator-like war robot for the U.S. military.

    The as yet unnamed war bot is being marketed for "border patrol" and "crowd control" scenarios, although other military situations are also under consideration.

    "We want our soldiers to have the option of controlling a robot that could go ahead and investigate, engage or deter an enemy and not put human soldiers at risk," said a spokesman for Metal Storm who wished to remain anonymous.

    This new war bot will likely soon join the existing ranks of military robots deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The U.S. military has used various war bots, from both iRobot and its competitor Foster-Miller, for years, primarily to diffuse bombs and other unexploded ordinances.

    The first armed robots appeared in Iraq in 2007 as part of Foster-Miller's SWORDS program. They were armed with M249 light machine guns and received limited service in Iraq.

    Since then robot armaments have increased. The Metal Storm/iRobot robot can be equipped with a variety of weapons, from non-lethal rubber bullets to grenade launchers. As many as 12 different Metal Storm weapons can be put onto the iRobot platform at the same time, said a Metal Storm spokesman.

    The difference between Metal Storm weapons and other guns is the firing mechanism.

    Traditional guns rely on a firing pin to physically strike the flat end of a round resting in the firing chamber, creating hot gases that propel the bullet down and out of the gun barrel.

    A Metal Storm gun however, fires the bullets electrically, not physically. Pull the trigger and an electrical charge from a battery is sent down the barrel of the gun, triggering the chemical reaction that sends a bullet flying.


    [​IMG]

    There are no moving parts (besides the bullet) and multiple bullets fit into a single gun barrel, letting the gunner fire much faster than traditional firearms. Metal Storm claims their weapons can fire (theoretically) up to a million rounds a minute.

    While Foster-Miller might lack an exotic firing mechanism, their robots still pack plenty of fire power.

    Their latest MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robots can carry anything from pepper spray and laser dazzlers to 40-mm grenade launcher or a M240B medium machine gun. Foster-Miller delivered their 2,000th war bot to the military earlier this month.

    Perhaps even more important than weaponry is durability.

    "[The robots] can take a beating," said Robert Quinn, an engineer at Foster-Miller. "Some of our robots have been blown up 10, even 15 times, and they still work."

    If a warrior robot is damaged in battle, the military has a system in place to repair them. A network of seven robot hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan keeps wounded war bots healthy.

    Robot warriors might be armed, sent into battle, and even wounded like humans, but they lack the most important aspect of a warrior (and for doomsday scenarios): intelligence.

    [​IMG]

    All of the robots are controlled remotely by human soldiers to keep their comrades safe in threatening situations. There is no artificial intelligence on board.

    "Our soldiers know when they are facing a threatening situation," said Quinn. "In those circumstances they would like to send a robot instead of a human so the humans can remain safe."

    "This is trying to give a team of soldiers a 'tenth man' that is expendable to enemy fire," said Quinn.

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  15. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Israeli Military Snake robot -


     
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  16. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Russian Combat Robot developed by University team -

     
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  17. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    FOX coverage on SnakeRobot -

     
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  18. EagleOne

    EagleOne Regular Member

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    here comes INDIAN

    [​IMG]
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  19. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    US Army Orders 94 Additional SUGVs from Boeing-iRobot Team

    HUNTSVILLE, Ala., July 27, 2010 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] and partner iRobot Corp. [NASDAQ: IRBT] today announced that they have received a new task order to an existing contract to provide Small Unmanned Ground Vehicles (SUGV) to the U.S. Army. The order calls for 94 new model 310 SUGV robots, plus spares, for a total value of $14.6 million.

    This order, the contract's fifth, brings the total units ordered by the U.S. government to 323. The existing Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract will run through February.

    "Boeing and iRobot are pleased to be working with our customers to provide this life-saving technology in response to urgent warfighter needs," said Bob DaLee, Robotics program manager for Boeing Network & Tactical Systems. "The 35-pound 310 SUGV system provides the dismounted Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician with the ability to perform reconnaissance during extremely hazardous EOD missions involving unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices."

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    "Robots have played an important role on the battlefield for years now, and their numbers in theater are growing," said Joe Dyer, president of iRobot's Government and Industrial Robots division. "Warfighters can carry and quickly deploy the SUGV at a moment's notice, which is crucial in challenging environments such as Afghanistan. These robots are saving lives every day."

    Boeing and iRobot developed the SUGV family of vehicles under a strategic alliance that began in 2007. SUGV is a smaller and lighter version of the combat-proven PackBot. It is designed to give warfighters real-time awareness of critical situations and to allow them to complete missions from safe standoff distances. It is ideal for a variety of mission types, including EOD, route clearance and reconnaissance. As the prime contractor, Boeing provides program management, contracts, government-test support and quality-control support from offices in Huntsville. iRobot is responsible for engineering, government-test support, manufacturing, training and logistics services, with the majority of work conducted in Bedford, Mass.

    "The SUGV can increase the safety of U.S. and allied warfighters in uncertain situations," said William Boggs, director of Boeing Global Forces & Robotics Systems. "We will continue working with our customer not only to provide these valuable assets, but also to continue to refine them so the SUGV we deliver tomorrow has even more capability than the one we deliver today."

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  20. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    [​IMG]
     
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  21. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Military Robots Gain Speed

    Time can be of the essence when operators are using robots to go downrange to investigate a roadside bomb.

    An Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center small business innovative research grant has resulted in the ForeRunner robot that travels at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, said William Wedler, a mechanical engineer at Pittsburgh, Pa.-based re2 Inc.

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    TARDEC initiated the project to determine how much speed and maneuverability could be combined into one robot.

    “This is not just a high speed vehicle,” Wedler said. Along with being fast for a ground robot,
    the requirements called for near omni-directional steering at low speeds, he said.


    The company solved this with an independent suspension and four-wheel drive.

    Reeg Allen, director of business development at the company, said the computer kicks into different modes as it reaches different speeds.

    “Like a regular car at high speed, the back wheels are locked and the front wheels only have certain degree of freedom. So you have less chance of rolling over the vehicle,” he said. A manipulator module can be added so the operator can investigate objects once it arrives at its destination.

    In slower modes, remote drivers can turn the wheels in all directions including sideways. At top speeds, it can cover 300 yards “of uneven obstacle–strewn terrain in seconds versus minutes,” the company’s fact sheet said.

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