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The U.S. Army launches several competitions to define its future robot unmanned ground systems fleet, in a move that may transform the ground robotics industry over the next year.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army clamored to buy unmanned ground vehicles that could help provide a level of standoff between soldiers and the dangers faced on the battlefield, mostly improvised explosive devices.
Due to the rapid procurement of roughly 7,000 UGVs, the Army now has various ground robots from Talons to PacBots to Dragon Runners. There are 10 UGV repair facilities in the U.S. and two forward-deployed.
According to defensenews.com, the various robots in the fleet perform functions from detecting explosives or other chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats to clearing mines and providing situational awareness. There are roughly nine variants of robots used for the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) mission, two robots for engineering battalions to conduct route clearance, two for CBRNe tasks and three for contingency and global response forces.
As not all the systems communicate with one another, the army plans that future systems would be interoperable and open to take on new sensors and capabilities more easily, Lou Anulare, the product manager for unmanned ground vehicles in the Army’s Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat System Support told defensenews.com.
The Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) Increment II will be the Army’s next medium-sized robot to provide standoff capability to identify and neutralize explosive hazards. The MTRS Inc. II system will have a common chassis with the ability to plug in various payloads for current and future missions.
The Army plans to procure a total of 1,210 of these UGVs with the intention of fielding to engineering battalions and CBRN and EOD units.
While a common chassis for MTRS will be picked, the robot will continue to transform and change over the course of its life as the Army invests in payloads that can be swapped out on the platform with ease. MTRS will be the first contract that requires various payloads like fiber optics, manipulator arms, and radios to work within the profile.
For the Army’s future small UGV — the Common Robotic System (Individual) — the service wants a man-packable robot that is under 25 lbs and highly mobile, equipped with advanced sensors and mission modules for dismounted forces. The design will allow operators to reconfigure for various missions quickly in the field.
Again, the Army is looking at a common chassis and some payloads to address operational capability gaps including standoff, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; remote CBRN detection; explosive ordnance disposal operations and clearance of danger areas.
Tying everything together is a common universal controller that will not only provide data from the system a soldier might be controlling but also from other systems in the air or on the ground, whether transmitted actively or passively. Soldiers will also be able to control more than one system at a time and not just one type of robot.
The Army will also focus on procuring a Common Robotic System (Heavy), a vehicle-transportable system weighing 500 to 1,000 lbs to perform “highly dexterous manipulation procedures” for EOD and disarming vehicle-borne IEDs from a safe distance. The CRS(H) UGV will also be designed to easily reconfigure with various modules and payloads.
Moving forward in executing the recently published Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy, service officials will work on leader-follower technology where a manned lead truck would be followed by three unmanned vehicles in a convoy.
Israel, too, is constantly looking for innovative solutions for its future forces and is one of the world leading countries in this field.
The forthcoming conference organized by iHLS will focus on this intriguing field of the Future Forces. During the conference and exhibition, which will take place on February 25th, 2017 at the Lago Conference Venue, Rishon Le Zion, cutting-edge technologies will be presented by high-tech and startup companies, the defense industries and more. The innovations for the future forces will encompass various fields – nanotechnology, robotics and unmanned systems, electro-optics, sensors, wearable systems, etc.