January 12, 2013

The photographs for this posting are derived from information furnished by Ann R. Thryft; Design News, “Military Robots Extend Humans’ Reach.

For some reason, when I think of robotic systems designed for DOD applications, I think of drone aircraft and aircraft specifically designed for recon missions and surveillance.  In other words, flying machines specifically designed for flight.   Equally fascinating, are robotic systems  ground-based, that operate and maneuver thereby extending  operational capabilities “in theater” and taking our uniformed military from “harms way”.   Let’s take a very quick look at several recent advancements for ground-based robotic systems.

Nighthawk Micro Air Vehicle(MAV)

The Nighthawk Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) is a rugged, fully automated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made of carbon fiber composite. It uses GPS and autopilot technologies for navigating unfriendly territories to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Its range is over 10 km (6 miles) and flight time is more than 60 minutes. The Nighthawk weighs 1.6 lb (725 gm), has a wingspan of 26 inches (66 cm), and a cruise speed of 18 to 30-plus knots. The MAV is equipped with 8-channel command and control, 4-channel video, and operates on batteries. It has forward and side-looking electro-optical cameras and a side or forward-looking thermal imager. A PC-based user interface provides real-time visual feedback and point-and-click waypoint navigation. The system can also be operated in semi-manual and manual flight modes. MAVs are stored fully assembled and ready to launch in a tube measuring 6 inches (15.2 cm) in diameter and attached to an assault pack. The assault pack’s outer pockets hold a rugged laptop computer, the ground control station, and an antenna assembly. The pack’s total weight is about 15 lb (6 kg).  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

Avatar II

The Avatar II is a remote-controlled tactical robot with a 300m (328 yards) operating range for first responders and SWAT teams. It includes a front-mounted drive camera, a high-intensity front headlight, an infrared light, a 360-degree pan-tilt-zoom camera, and a composite chassis that’s resistant to shock and water. Front and rear flippers help it climb stairs at inclines of up to 60 degrees and right itself if turned upside down. It’s also got secure WiFi for live video and audio transmission, as well as two-way audio operation and video and audio recording capability. Separate wireless channels let operators control multiple robots simultaneously. The Avatar II weighs 25 lb (11.34 kg) and measures 24.41 inches (62 cm) by 15.35 inches (39 cm) by 6.14 inches (15.6 cm).  (Source: Robotex)

Python HTR

The Python HTR climbs stairs and navigates difficult terrain to assist humans in hazmat, tactical, and reconnaissance operations. Simulator Systems’ operator control unit software includes a user interface that depends on touch gestures for controlling the robot’s movement, adjusting cameras, modifying settings, or changing views. The software also incorporates a secure, digital communication protocol for transmitting video. The HTR is based on the company’s Robotics Relay System for Communication in Urban Environments software. This incorporates mesh networking, like that used for smart power grids, to control multiple robots or relay surveillance cameras, and to use them as a network of mobile signal transmission points. The robot’s hardware is built in a modular fashion, so operators can swap out all components in the field without tools: accessories, cameras, OEM monitors, and even the Master Control Unit containing the robot’s critical electronic systems.  (Source: Simulator Systems)


Aptly called Pointman, Applied Research Associates’ small unmanned ground vehicle (SUGV) is a remote-controlled tactical robot for conducting video surveillance of multi-story structures and facility perimeters. Video outputs allow its display on an external monitor, and its wireless communication range is up to 600 feet (182.88m). Because its camera boom assembly lies flat, Pointman can also conduct under-vehicle inspection of automobiles, commercial vehicles, and aircraft. It uses wheeled locomotion to move over level terrain at about 5 feet (1.52m) per second, and can climb stairs at a speed of one step per second. It can climb over objects that are up to 11 inches (27.9 cm) high and runs for five to six hours on easy to moderate terrain. Pointman measures 19 inches (48.3 cm) wide x 13 inches (33 cm) long by 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) high, and weighs 18 lb (8 kg). It is water-resistant and can be decontaminated.  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

Clearpath Robotics

Clearpath Robotics says it designed the Husky A200 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to make UGV prototype development faster and cheaper for industrial and military engineers, computer scientists, and researchers. Built on an open, low-level, serial communication protocol, the Husky, like the company’s other robots, supports industry standard software such as LabVIEW, layer/Stage, C++, and Python, as well as the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS). Sample code is provided for interfaces with GPS systems, vision, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors. The remote-controlled Husky’s high-torque 4×4 differential drive system can deal with most field environments, including dirt, mud, water, gravel, rocks, and snow. 5V, 12V, and 24V user power is provided, and power lines have been filtered and fused for payload safety. The Husky measures 990 mm (39 inches) by 670 mm (26.4 inches) by 390 mm (14.6 inches) and weighs 47 kg (104 lb). Maximum payload weight is 75 kg (165 lb), and maximum speed is 1.0 m/s (2.3 mph).  (Source: Clearpath Robotics)


The TerraMax unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) kit converts any military tactical wheeled vehicle to supervised autonomous navigation in either a lead or follow role, with each vehicle able to navigate independently to the target location. Applications include improving autonomous missions, and protecting soldiers from possible IED (Improvised Explosive Device) threats. Tightly integrated “x-by-wire” brakes, steering, engine, and transmission enable advanced driver assist systems such as electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, and collision mitigation braking. The multi-sensor system makes possible accurate positioning estimates without the need for continuous tracking through GPS signals or a lead vehicle. Sensors include LIDAR (light detection and ranging), radar, and multispectral vision. Operators can observe and manage internal operations and autonomous systems status, and create or load route information, over tactical data links.  (Source: Oshkosh Defense) Modular Robotic Control System

The Modular Robotic Control System (MRCS) isn’t a robotic vehicle, but an integrated hardware and software kit that converts existing commercial tracked or wheeled construction vehicles to remote control. The software is compliant with the military’s Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS). Vehicles from 3,000-lb skid steer loaders, up to wheel loaders weighing eight times that much, can be controlled with the MRCS, designed by unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) maker Applied Research Associates. The customizable control system provides remote control of a vehicle’s motion, in addition to remote control of attachments such as robotic arms, disruptors, and other tools. The operator control unit includes picture-in-picture high-quality video capability so operators can remotely view the environment surrounding the vehicle, as well as tool operation. The line-of-sight range provided by the digital radio control system is 1.5 miles (2.41 km).  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

TORC Robotics


TORC Robotics’ Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) autonomous vehicle might be thought of as an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) on steroids. It can carry 1,800 lb and travel up to 10 mph over a variety of off-road terrain, for carrying out missions such as route clearance, reconnaissance, and resupply. GUSS drives itself via TORC’s customized AutonoNav software navigation system. The software allows control of mission planning, motion planning, behaviors, and vehicle control, as well as optimized route planning. Interfaces with GPS systems and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors are provided, and motion planning parameters can be entered via a web-based interface. It can also be controlled using handheld or wearable units. The vehicle is the joint product of a development team that includes Virginia Tech, the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren, and the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.  (Source: TORC Robotics)






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    • cielotech Says:

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