Army technology team helps field robot

The PackBot 510 robot undergoes final testing at the Robot Logistics Support Center. (U.S. Army photo)

By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Dec. 18, 2015) — U.S. Army science and technology advisors have initiated a project to field a robot capable of assessing chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosives, or CBRNE, threats from a safe distance.

Several Army organizations combined on a new variant of the PackBot 510 robot with enhanced CBRNE detection capabilities.

“These robots are one-of-a-kind and filled a critical gap for Soldiers on the front lines in Korea,” said Lt. Col. Mark Meeker, field assistance in science and technology advisor assigned to U.S. Forces Korea.

Army, industry, academia partner to demonstrate new technologies

A U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center UH-60MU Black Hawk helicopter transports an autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle. (U.S. Army photo)

AMRDEC Public Affairs

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Nov. 9, 2015) — Carnegie Mellon University and Sikorsky Aircraft, using a U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center UH-60MU Black Hawk helicopter enabled with Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ Technology and CMU’s Land Tamer autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle, recently participated in a joint autonomy demonstration that proved the capability of new, ground-air cooperative missions.

Future technology may prevent warfighter exposure to hazardous conditions, such as chemical or radiological contaminated areas.

“The teaming of unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles like what was demonstrated here has enormous potential to bring the future ground commander an adaptable, modular, responsive and smart capability that can evolve as quickly as needed to meet a constantly changing threat,” said Dr. Paul Rogers, director, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC.

“The cooperative effort between the Army labs, academia and industry to bring solutions to the warfighter is exciting to see,” Rogers said. Continue reading

Army to enlist robots to pull Soldiers off battlefield

One day, unmanned vehicles, similar to but larger than this small unmanned ground vehicle, may roll onto battlefields to rescue downed Soldiers, said the commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack)

One day, unmanned vehicles, similar to but larger than this small unmanned ground vehicle, may roll onto battlefields to rescue downed Soldiers, said the commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack)

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 22, 2015) — Most Americans have seen at least one war movie, where at some point a fresh-faced young private is hit with some shrapnel. From the ground, he calls out for the unit medic — another young guy, from another small town, whose quick reaction and skill just may save his life.

In the near future, however, it may no longer be another Soldier, who comes running to his side. Instead, it might be an Army-operated unmanned aerial or ground vehicle, said Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and Schooland chief of the Medical Corps.

“We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire,” Jones said. “With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties.

Jones spoke at an Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored medical conference near the Pentagon, Sept. 22.

“We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them,” he said. “With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that.”

Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home. But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them.

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Leading Army researcher: Future of autonomous vehicles

During a robotics demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, Aug. 7, 2014, Soldiers emerge from the tree line and remove ammunition and supplies from the autonomous unmanned Squad Mission Support System, or SMSS.

During a robotics demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, Aug. 7, 2014, Soldiers emerge from the tree line and remove ammunition and supplies from the autonomous unmanned Squad Mission Support System, or SMSS.

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.

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Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance

Far Future: Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance

Army researchers explore adding a flexible torso to a legged robot to offer increased speed, maneuverability and running efficiency over extremely rough terrains, compared to wheeled, tracked and stiff-backed legged robots. The Canid robot is the result of ongoing research in the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance. (U.S. Army photo)

Army researchers explore adding a flexible torso to a legged robot to offer increased speed, maneuverability and running efficiency over extremely rough terrains, compared to wheeled, tracked and stiff-backed legged robots. The Canid robot is the result of ongoing research in the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance. (U.S. Army photo)

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.”

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Autonomy-enabled technology provides a pathway to the future

A convoy of Army trucks gets a test at Fort Hood, Texas. Testers were sometimes in the driver seats, but the vehicles operated autonomously. (U.S. Army photo)

A convoy of Army trucks gets a test at Fort Hood, Texas. Testers were sometimes in the driver seats, but the vehicles operated autonomously. (U.S. Army photo)

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.

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Soldiers of the future will generate their own power

A Soldier conducts dismounted maneuvers wearing Lightning Pack's Rucksack Harvester, Bionic Power's Knee Harvester and MC-10's photovoltaic, or PV, Solar Panel Harvester during an energy harvesting technology demonstration held at Ft. Devens, Mass. by the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

A Soldier conducts dismounted maneuvers wearing Lightning Pack’s Rucksack Harvester, Bionic Power’s Knee Harvester and MC-10’s photovoltaic, or PV, Solar Panel Harvester during an energy harvesting technology demonstration held at Ft. Devens, Mass. by the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

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.

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RDECOM is the Army’s autonomous technology enabler

TARDEC Chief Engineer and Senior Technology Expert for Robotics Dr. Greg Hudas (standing) and TARDEC research scientist Jeremy Gray test circuit boards from a Packbot robot being completely refurbished at the center’s Small Robots Laboratory.  As an STE, Hudas' principle focus is software development and autonomous controller device technology, both of which are being developed at TARDEC for integration into the new fleet of PackBot robots. (U.S. Army photo by Amanda Dunford)

TARDEC Chief Engineer and Senior Technology Expert for Robotics Dr. Greg Hudas (standing) and TARDEC research scientist Jeremy Gray test circuit boards from a Packbot robot being completely refurbished at the center’s Small Robots Laboratory.  As an STE, Hudas’ principle focus is software development and autonomous controller device technology, both of which are being developed at TARDEC for integration into the new fleet of PackBot robots. (U.S. Army photo by Amanda Dunford)

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.

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Seeking the ethical robot

Dr. Ronald Arkin speaks to robotics researchers about developing ethical systems Sept. 10, 2014, at a U.S. Army Research Laboratory Colloquium at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by Doug Lafon)

Dr. Ronald Arkin speaks to robotics researchers about developing ethical systems Sept. 10, 2014, at a U.S. Army Research Laboratory Colloquium at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by Doug Lafon)

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.”

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Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference and Exhibition

The Disrupter Integration System provides disrupter mounting solutions for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Man Transportable Robotic System robots. By 2021, Army acquisition officials hope to replace current systems with the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II, known as MTRS Inc II. (U.S. Army photo)

The Disrupter Integration System provides disrupter mounting solutions for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Man Transportable Robotic System robots. By 2021, Army acquisition officials hope to replace current systems with the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II, known as MTRS Inc II. (U.S. Army photo)

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.

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Remote lethality: Army researchers address a host of challenges

While conducting a Gunnery Exercise the Ripsaw Unmanned Ground Vehicle engages a stationary BMP target at a distance of 700 meters using the M250 Caliber Machine Gun. (U.S. Army photo)

While conducting a Gunnery Exercise the Ripsaw Unmanned Ground Vehicle engages a stationary BMP target at a distance of 700 meters using the M250 Caliber Machine Gun. (U.S. Army photo)

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.

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Army researchers develop pocket-sized aerial surveillance device

A British Soldier holds a Prox Dynamics' PD-100 Black Hornet, a palm-sized miniature helicopter weighing only 16 grams. Researchers with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are testing the Black Hornet to provide squad-sized small units with organic intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability. (Courtesy photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

A British Soldier holds a Prox Dynamics’ PD-100 Black Hornet, a palm-sized miniature helicopter weighing only 16 grams. Researchers with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are testing the Black Hornet to provide squad-sized small units with organic intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability. (Courtesy photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

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.

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Researchers test insect-inspired robot

These nano-quads are the size that the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Micro-Autonomous Systems Technology consortium of researchers envision. The current state is about as compact as a microwave oven. (Photo courtesy of KMel robotics)

These nano-quads are the size that the U.S. Army Research
Laboratory Micro-Autonomous Systems Technology consortium of researchers envision. The current state is about as compact as a microwave oven. (Photo courtesy of KMel robotics)

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.

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Researchers gather feedback from robotic chem-bio sensor users

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center featured the Rapid Area Sensitive-site Reconnaissance Advanced Technology Demonstration at the Team CBRNE Capability Showcase Aug. 5-6 where partners in government, industry and academia attended to learn more about chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives technologies. (U.S. Army photo)

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center featured the Rapid Area Sensitive-site Reconnaissance Advanced Technology Demonstration at the Team CBRNE Capability Showcase Aug. 5-6 where partners in government, industry and academia attended to learn more about chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives technologies. (U.S. Army photo)

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.

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Army matures autonomous flight technologies

The K-MAX helicopter performs autonomous operations at a Fort Benning, Georgia test. (U.S. Army photo)

The K-MAX helicopter performs autonomous operations at a Fort Benning, Georgia test. (U.S. Army photo)

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.

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