Military Robotics

"The demographers may miss it, but brace yourself for a big-time population explosion soon. The newborns are not human, but they experience emotion, and they reason. Nor are they pets, but they provide companionship and make you laugh. They might read a bedtime story to a small child or bring a cup of tea to a bedridden parent, patrol the grounds for intruders, mow the lawn, vacuum or handle other household chores. The progeny will occupy your office, too, sorting the mail or watering the plants."
Edward Baig, USA TODAY

Well maybe, but in the meantime mobile robots are being designed, built and integrated into a wide variety of applications at an ever increasing pace.  Leading the way, are Military Robots for surveillance, supply delivery, personnel evacuation, fire control and weapons delivery.

USMC Ground Surveillance Robot (1982 to 1986) - Features: remote control of an M-114 using commercial off-the-shelf actuators, autonomous operation using a simple vision system to follow a target, included obstcle detection and collision avoidance using acoustic (sonar) ranging sensors.

"Greenman" (1983-1988) - The first anthropomorphic (human configured) manipulator developed at SSC San Diego was the Remote Presence Demonstration System, nicknamed "Greenman". It was assembled in 1983 using MB Associates arms and a SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego-developed torso and head. It had an exoskeletal master controller for the human operator's torso, arms, and head. Its vision system consisted of two 525-line video cameras each having a 35 degree field of view and video camera eyepiece monitors mounted in an aviator's helmet.

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Airborne Remotely Operated Device (AROD) (1982-1988) -  a small ducted fan vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) air vehicle that could easily translate through the air and provide short range aerial surveillance. The AROD project was initiated at the Hawaii detachment of SSC San Diego as part of the US Marine Corps Exploratory Development (6.2) Surveillance Program in the early 1980s, and was continued as part of the Ground Air Telerobotics Systems (GATERS) Advanced Technology Demonstration (6.3A) program  through the later 1980s together with the ground-based Teloperated Vehicle (TOV).

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Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS-Interior) (1994) - Uses robotic platforms to autonomously patrol and secure the interior of DoD warehouses. Intruder Detection and Assessment (IDAS) mission module employs microwave and passive-infrared motion sensors and a controllable video zoom camera. Developed navigation scheme for semi-structured environments and multiple robot command and control architecture.

Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) program (1985-1989) - SSC San Diego Accomplishments Development of three TeleOperated Vehicles (TOVs), one command and control van (HMMWV shelter). Remote telepresence through slaved stereo vision and binaural audio. Armed with remote-controlled .50 cal machine gun. Laser designator (AN/PAQ-3) for Hellfire and Copperhead. FLIR (AN/TAS-4) and image-intensified video.

Robart III and Autonomous Radio Relay (1992-Present) - Funded by DARPA. Demonstrates automatic maintenance of high-bandwidth communication link between advancing robot and remote operator. Trailing slaves automatically deployed/ recovered by lead robot, transparent to operator. Provides autonomous, dynamically reconfigurable mobile relay/sensor network. Intended for interior building exploration in urban warfare environments. Can be extended to exterior tactical scenarios.

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Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS Exterior) (1998)- Employs robotic platforms to autonomously patrol outdoor DoD storage sites. Robots navigate along pre-programmed paths using Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS). Multi-layer sensor fusion of laser, stereo vision cameras, and ultrasonics provides Obstacle Avoidance. On patrols, robots detect and assess potential intruders, monitor inventory, and check the status of Internal Locking Devices (ILD) on munition storage bunkers.


Current Research Projects

TARDEC Robotic Mobility Laboratory - Goals:  Conduct research in advanced mobility for unmanned ground vehicle systems and devise new technologies to improve the capabilities of robotic systems. Generation of system mobility and behavioral specifications to aid in the validation and acquisition process of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs).

Modular Mobility Platforms (T1, T2, T3) - Core unit consisting of the mechanical frame, power/distribution, and connection ports Vetronics system, including multi-processors and wireless communication link to Control Unit System software.
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Omni-Directional Inspection System (ODIS )- Low profile platform fits under vehicles – man-packable, weighs less than 50lbs.Replaces “mirror on a stick” inspection 2-3 hour run time with “hot-swappable” batteries – 4 mph top speed Tele-operated video inspection with active LED lighting Com link transmits real time video data to base station operator
Uses omni-directional drive technology for high mobility/maneuverability Inspects vehicle underbodies for bombs, contraband, etc.

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Robotic Combat Support System (RCSS) (1991) -  Mini-Flail Used In Kuwait After Desert Storm, Mini-Flail Used In Bosnia From 1995 Until Present, Product Improved Mini-Flail (PIMF) Fielded In 1998RCSS Requirement Evolved From Mini-Flail.



Man Portable Robotics System (URBOT) - Missions: Reconnaissance, Booby Trap Detection, Remote Resupply, Personnel Evacuation, Door/Wall Breaching Capabilities Man – Portable, Vehicle weight: <30 lbs, 600(+) Meters Line – of – Sight, 200 (+) Meters NLOS, 2 - 4 Hours Mission Duration, provides video, audio & sensor feedback.

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The Army Vision