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Army Technology Magazine interviewed Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan. Rogers provides executive management to deliver advanced technology solutions for all Department of Defense ground systems and combat support equipment.
Army Technology: Over the past 10 years, robotics, or autonomy-enabled systems, have gone from a novelty to an asset among Soldiers. What is the current view of autonomy-enabled systems in the field?
Rogers: One of the greatest threats to our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the roadside bomb. For more than a decade of war, we’ve witnessed how unmanned systems have been effective at keeping our Soldiers at safe distances from this danger. As we plan for the future, we’ve determined that advanced autonomy-enabled technologies will play an even greater role in keeping our Soldiers safe. Not by replacing them, but by providing a continuum of capabilities that will augment and enable them, while filling some of the Army’s most challenging capability gaps.
We’ve put a lot of work into developing a 30-year ground vehicle strategy, and user understanding and acceptance of autonomy-enabled technologies is vital for the Army to realize the strategy’s full value. With today’s fast-paced operational tempo, the Army experiences a lot of accidents due to driver inattentiveness, external distractions and fatigue. In the short term, the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System [AMAS] technology, successfully demonstrated several times this year by TARDEC and Lockheed Martin, can solve these problems by providing our drivers with viable options, up to and including: conducting manned or optionally-manned missions; utilizing a suite of driver-assist features, such as adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigating braking, lane-keeping assist, electronic stability and rollover warnings; or operating in the fully autonomous mode.
The AMAS kit can be installed on many military ground vehicle platforms, providing driver assist safety enhancements that are easily understood by the drivers. Our goal is to ease the cognitive and/or physical burden placed on our Soldiers, and augment human performance to better enable mission accomplishment. Guided by the 30-Year Ground Vehicle Strategy, we will continue to integrate more scalable autonomy-enabled features into our ground vehicle systems in the future.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 3, 2014) — The U.S. Army is investing in robotics research and development with a vision of increasing autonomy.
“As we plan for the future, we’ve determined that advanced autonomy-enabled technologies will play an even greater role in keeping our Soldiers safe,” said Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center at the Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Michigan.
In the November/December 2014 issue of Army Technology Magazine, Rogers outlines the future of autonomous vehicles research and development. His aim is not to replace Soldiers, but provide a “continuum of capabilities that will augment and enable them, while filling some of the Army’s most challenging capability gaps.”
Far Future: Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
The U.S. Army envisions a future where robots are integral members of the team performing autonomous actions and maintaining current capabilities.
Five years ago, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory set out to pursue this vision by forming the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance. It sought partners in industry and academia to explore technologies required for the deployment of future intelligent military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.
“The future for unmanned systems lies in the development of highly capable systems, which have a set of intelligence-based capabilities sufficient to enable the teaming of autonomous systems with Soldiers,” said Dr. Jonathan A. Bornstein, chief, Autonomous Systems Division for ARL and the collaborative alliance manager. “To act as teammates, robotic systems will need to reason about their missions, move through the world in a tactically correct way, observe salient events in the world around them, communicate efficiently with Soldiers and other autonomous systems and effectively perform a variety of mission tasks.”
By Bruce J. Huffman, TARDEC Public Affairs
Army engineers from the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, are developing technology solutions for autonomy-enabled systems.
TARDEC and an industry partner, Lockheed Martin, demonstrated the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System or AMAS at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2014.
Researchers transformed ordinary trucks from the Army’s current vehicle fleet into optionally-manned vehicles, offering drivers new safety features and additional capabilities that never existed until now.
“These systems are designed, not to replace warfighters, but to help unburden them and augment their capabilities,” said Bernard Theisen, TARDEC program manager for AMAS.
By Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs
Wearable technologies may provide U.S. Soldiers with on-the-move, portable energy and reduce the weight of gear they carry into combat.
Researchers at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing Soldier-borne energy harvesting technologies.
During the Maneuver Fires Integration Experiment, or MFIX, a combined, multi-phase joint training exercise held in September 2014 at Fort Benning, Georgia, researchers tested prototype energy harvesting technology solutions.
“My initial impression is that they fulfill a need for instant power generation on long-range missions when displaced from traditional resupply methods,” said Sgt. 1st Class Arthur H. Jones, an infantryman with the Maneuver Center of Excellence who participated in the demonstration.
by Dr. Gregory R. Hudas, TARDEC Ground Vehicle Robotics chief engineer
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is synergizing research centers and labs under its command to create a robotics community that will enhance the Army’s ability to employ autonomy-enabled vehicle technologies to support the Soldier in every aspect of their operational life.
The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Ground Vehicle Robotics division is spearheading that initiative for the RDECOM community to create a Robotics Community of Practice, known as the CoP. The new Robotics CoP will speak with one voice coming from RDECOM to provide a concise message to the Army and Department of Defense customers we support. It’s all about removing redundancy across programs and collaborating a lot more closely as an enterprise.
The community charter, which is in the early development stages, will eventually help lay out the roles and responsibilities for each research, development and engineering center, whether that is by enabling autonomy, platforms, capabilities or usage. The CoP will also strive to achieve critical missions that regularly demonstrate evolutionary technology advancements, provide long-term data collection, promote open architecture across all stakeholder communities and strengthen those stakeholder partnerships. RDECOM needs the CoP to seek collaboration with key partners from academia, industry and the other service branches and federal laboratories to develop these autonomy-enabled vehicle technologies, and then demonstrate those systems, subsystems and capabilities to the user community ― our Soldiers and Marines. Our collaborative partnerships are crucial for strengthening governance, standards and collective strategy moving forward.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory gathered Sept. 10, 2014 to discuss ethical robots.
Dr. Ronald C. Arkin, a professor from Georgia Tech, roboticist and author, challenged Army researchers to consider the implications of future autonomous robots.
“The bottom line for my talk here and elsewhere is concern for noncombatant casualties on the battlefield,” Arkin said. “I believe there is a fundamental responsibility as scientists and technologists to consider this problem. I do believe that we can, must and should apply this technology in this particular space.”
By Ed Lopez, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs
In popular culture, the idea of robots that perform human-like functions has a special hold on the imagination, based on real-life examples like space exploration, unmanned aerial drones and stoked by futuristic scenarios in movies like the “Terminator” series.
The military has used and experimented with robots that perform functions such as scouting and surveillance, carrying supplies and detecting and disposing of improvised homemade bombs.
However, when it comes to integrating lethality, such as a weapon capable of firing 10 rounds per second onto an unmanned ground vehicle, issues arise such as safety, effectiveness and reliability, as well as military doctrine on how much human involvement is required.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
Future Army robotics systems will rely on open architecture, modular design and innovative concepts to perform missions from surveillance to wide area route clearance, according to Army officials.
“In the Army we always say, ‘never send our Soldiers into a fair fight,’” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu said in the keynote address Aug. 13, 2014, to the National Defense Industrial Association Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference and Exhibition in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Hundreds of industry representatives, researchers and engineers gathered for the event, which provided a forum for the industry and government to identify technologies that will help meet future warfighter needs.
By Jeffrey Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs
Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing technologies for a pocket-sized aerial surveillance device for Soldiers and small units operating in challenging ground environments.
The Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program, or CP-ISR, seeks to develop a mobile Soldier sensor to increase the situational awareness of dismounted Soldiers by providing real-time video surveillance of threat areas within an immediate operational environment.
While larger systems have been used to provide over-the-hill ISR capabilities on the battlefield for almost a decade, none deliver it directly to the squad level where Soldiers need the ability to see around the corner or into the next room during combat missions.
By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs
Army researchers are finding they have much to learn from bees hovering near a picnic spread at a park.
Dr. Joseph Conroy, an electronics engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, part of the Research, Development and Engineering Command, works with robotic systems that can navigate by leveraging visual sensing inspired by insect neurophysiology.
A recently developed prototype that is capable of wide-field vision and high update rate, hallmarks of insect vision, is something researchers hope to test at the manned and unmanned teaming, or MUM-T exercise at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. This project will give us a chance to implement methods of perception such as 3-D mapping and motion estimation on a robotics platform, Conroy said.
ECBC Public Affairs
Soldiers entering a building suspected of chemical contamination are exposed to an unpredictable environment with potentially hostile forces. Inconclusive information and a lack of concrete data make it difficult for them to make timely decisions during a critical mission.
Army researchers are working on technology solutions to give Soldiers key information to keep them safe from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives threats.
The future of chem-bio detection is wrapped in the evolution of technology, according to experts from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The center is demonstrating advanced detection equipment for sensitive-site assessments where the threat is likely, but remains unknown.
By Ryan Keith, AMRDEC Public Affairs
Virtually all aircraft, from the Wright brothers first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the unmanned aircraft systems employed in operations today, share a common component: Pilots. Whether in the cockpit or through remote control, pilots have remained a critical component to aviation, until now.
Researchers at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center at Redstone, Alabama, are developing and demonstrating autonomous flight technologies that promise to change the future of aviation.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 28, 2014) — Army researchers are evaluating prototype devices developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, Warrior Web program’s goal is to create a soft, lightweight undersuit to help reduce injuries and fatigue, while improving mission performance. DARPA is responsible for the development of new technologies for the U.S. military.
Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering spent the past two years developing a biologically inspired smart suit that aims to boost efficiency through a new approach. A series of webbing straps contain a microprocessor and a network of strain sensors.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Oct. 22, 2014) — When an Army Special Forces officer-turned engineer puts his mind to designing a military riflescope, he doesn’t forget the importance of creating something for the Soldiers who will carry it that is easy to use, extremely accurate, light-weight and has long-lasting battery power.
Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell led the development of the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles, or RAZAR, prototype. At the push of a button, RAZAR can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles.
“The impetus behind the idea of push-button zoom is you can acquire what you’re interested in at low magnification and, without getting lost, zoom in for more clarity,” Bagwell said.
NATICK, Mass. (Oct. 9, 2014) — Body armor has saved countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, but an Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or IOTV, that doesn’t fit properly can actually hinder a Soldier’s performance in combat.
That’s why members of the Anthropology and Human Factors Teams at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are conducting a range-of-motion and encumbered anthropometry study to better understand the link between fit and performance with the IOTV Gen III.
“We have this belief that if the fit of the body armor is really good, then the performance is going to be maximized,” said Dr. Hyeg joo Choi, the principal investigator for the study. “So the question is, how can we quantify a good fit so that Soldiers’ performance is maximized?”
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Oct. 16, 2014) — The Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, in conjunction with the Redstone Test Center, has completed a historic test program demonstrating the effectiveness a bio-fuel commonly referred to as Alcohol to Jet, in two Army aircraft — a UH-60A Black Hawk and a CH-47D Chinook.
Tests were conducted as a part of a congressionally-funded program to determine whether jet fuel made from non-food stock corn could safely power rotary wing aircraft and perform to Army requirements. The effort was part of a broader Department of Defense strategy initiated in 2009 to reduce dependency upon fossil fuels. ATJ-blends provide a renewable alternative to current aviation fuels, and address the Army Energy Security Strategy and Plans mandate that the Army certify 100 percent of its air platforms on alternative/renewable fuels by 2016.
Bio-fuels are made from renewable sources, such as algae, sugar, switch grass, plant oils and wood. Isobutanol is an alcohol-based bio-fuel produced from non-food stock corn.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 20, 2014) — Army Research Laboratory scientists say they may be better able to develop novel armor technologies to improve protection levels for U.S. warfighters based on information from a recent Department of Energy study.
For the first time, American researchers observed and measured the dynamic deflection and failure of material fibers as they deformed under high impact and at high speeds during recent experiments at the Argonne National Laboratory, a national laboratory within the DOE.
“If we know at very high fidelity scales how and why an armor or armor material is failing, we may be able to come up with a new material or material response mechanism to circumvent the failure mode and, in turn, significantly increase the armor performance by eliminating this ‘weakest link’ failure mode,” ARL physicist Dr. Michael Zellner said.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 9, 2014) — Department of Defense officials honored 45 Army Civilians in a ceremony Oct. 8 who voluntarily deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.
U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center mission commander Tim Blades got up from his seat and walked across the stage without looking at the handful of DOD stakeholders sitting to his left. He didn’t look out to the nearly 500 friends, families and colleagues sitting offstage to his right either. When he reached the podium, he looked only at the 45 honorees sitting in the front rows.
“I think I’d rather be out at sea,” he said with a laugh. It wasn’t like Blades to feel comfortable in the spotlight. Instead, he directed the attention to the crew of which he said he was simply a part.
Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Alan Estevez, presented 12 Meritorious Civilian Service Awards and 33 Superior Civilian Service Awards to members of the multi-agency team that completed the historic mission.
“Today’s ceremony is an example of how science and technology, combined with a world-class workforce and the great teamwork of all you players out there, can deliver unique capabilities to our nation,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. “To me, it’s another great example of rapid acquisition process to meet the operational needs of our nation.”
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Department of Defense Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program expects Americans selected for the program to be immersed in a foreign professional environment.
Selectees must be able to passably speak the local language that is needed to thrive in the local culture.
David Quinn, an aerospace engineer from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is now experiencing the south of France as an ESEP participant.
“I’m an engineer, so I hardly master my own native language,” Quinn joked, “and learning French has been a struggle. My inability to master French was particularly challenging when first arriving and trying to get settled into a new place.