Electronic Design

Putting Robots In Harm's Way

The military is procuring robots as fast as they can be made to keep soldiers safe and gain battlefield advantages.

The Airborne Engineer All-Purpose Remote Transport System (AE-ARTS) can perform a number of chores, including EOD, active range clearance, and debris clearing (Fig. 8). It has been used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Robo-Trencher trench digger was developed to protect forward-deployed personnel responsible for performing cable trenching and excavation missions in hazardous situations (Fig. 9). Each Robo-Trencher is equipped with a laptop Operator Control Unit (OCU) that features situational awareness and GPS tracking/location capabilities.

The system was delivered to the 738th Engineering Installation Squadron, which tested units in the field. These projects typically entail conversion kits that augment existing hardware. Engineers with the 738th created a remote kit used to retrofit all of the trenching tractors in their inventory.

Now being tested, the Robotic Convoy Assist is designed to tether vehicles, allowing a single driver to handle a convoy and allow personnel in the vehicles to concentrate on the environment looking for the enemy or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The lead vehicle has a driver, but following vehicles don’t need drivers. The system uses a camera that detects infrared dots on the lead vehicle.

UP IN THE AIR, JUNIOR BIRDMEN...
Drones aren’t new. Remote-control airplanes can be bought in any hobbyist store, though today’s military robots are significantly more advanced. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator and the Northrup Grumman Global Hawk (Fig. 11) can be controlled remotely, but they often operate autonomously. It’s easier for UAVs to operate on their own than other robots because obstacles are fewer and more easily detected. These proven systems are used daily and are equipped with airto- ground missiles and bombs.

Smaller UAVs are useful in the field as well. A small crew can manage Advanced Ceramic Research’s Silver Fox. The robot can be launched from a portable, lightweight, closed gas piston rail system mounted on top of trucks or ships. The robot, which can be up and running in less than 15 minutes, comes equipped with a range of cameras and sensors.

Many pilots dread unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). Fighters like Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Navy Unmanned Combat Air System experimental aircraft are able to pull more g’s than a human pilot (Fig. 13). UCAVs can be smaller than conventional fighters and may even be launched from existing aircraft. Also in the works are countermeasures needed to address the range of UAV threats, as different radar is required to detect smaller craft.

GETTING WET
Robots are finding uses on land, sea, and air. Aquatic robots are showing up in two flavors: underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). UUVs often are custom systems, but many USVs are built in a fashion similar to the larger ground vehicles via the addition of kits. This approach has the advantage of keeping a boat suitable for human use.

Purpose-built USVs include the Rafael Armament Development Authority 9-m rigidhulled inflatable Protector. Its water jet is driven by a diesel engine delivering speeds up to 40 knots. The Protector’s low-profile upper structure is sealed. It’s designed to meet a range of mission requirements. Another robot finding its way onto robotic and non-robotic platforms, Rafael’s Mini-Typhoon naval stabilized and remotely operated machine gun system, can be augmented with grenade and missile launchers.

GETTING SMARTER
Most of the robots deployed are remotely controlled. Companies developing and delivering these robots are working toward cooperative operation as well as single-controller, multiplerobot support. For example, Frontline Robotics has been working on cooperative robotics, and iRobot’s AWARE framework is designed to allow a newly awakened robot to link up with local controllers as well as other robots.

The Airborne Engineer All-Purpose Remote Transport System (AE-ARTS) can perform a number of chores, including EOD, active range clearance, and debris clearing (Fig. 8). It has been used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Robo-Trencher trench digger was developed to protect forward-deployed personnel responsible for performing cable trenching and excavation missions in hazardous situations (Fig. 9). Each Robo-Trencher is equipped with a laptop Operator Control Unit (OCU) that features situational awareness and GPS tracking/location capabilities.

The system was delivered to the 738th Engineering Installation Squadron, which tested units in the field. These projects typically entail conversion kits that augment existing hardware. Engineers with the 738th created a remote kit used to retrofit all of the trenching tractors in their inventory.

Now being tested, the Robotic Convoy Assist is designed to tether vehicles, allowing a single driver to handle a convoy and allow personnel in the vehicles to concentrate on the environment looking for the enemy or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The lead vehicle has a driver, but following vehicles don’t need drivers. The system uses a camera that detects infrared dots on the lead vehicle.

UP IN THE AIR, JUNIOR BIRDMEN...
Drones aren’t new. Remote-control airplanes can be bought in any hobbyist store, though today’s military robots are significantly more advanced. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator and the Northrup Grumman Global Hawk can be controlled remotely, but they often operate autonomously. It’s easier for UAVs to operate on their own than other robots because obstacles are fewer and more easily detected. These proven systems are used daily and are equipped with airto- ground missiles and bombs.

Smaller UAVs are useful in the field as well. A small crew can manage Advanced Ceramic Research’s Silver Fox (Fig. 12). The robot can be launched from a portable, lightweight, closed gas piston rail system mounted on top of trucks or ships. The robot, which can be up and running in less than 15 minutes, comes equipped with a range of cameras and sensors.

Many pilots dread unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). Fighters like Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Navy Unmanned Combat Air System experimental aircraft are able to pull more g’s than a human pilot (Fig. 13). UCAVs can be smaller than conventional fighters and may even be launched from existing aircraft. Also in the works are countermeasures needed to address the range of UAV threats, as different radar is required to detect smaller craft.

GETTING WET
Robots are finding uses on land, sea, and air. Aquatic robots are showing up in two flavors: underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). UUVs often are custom systems, but many USVs are built in a fashion similar to the larger ground vehicles via the addition of kits. This approach has the advantage of keeping a boat suitable for human use.

Purpose-built USVs include the Rafael Armament Development Authority 9-m rigidhulled inflatable Protector. Its water jet is driven by a diesel engine delivering speeds up to 40 knots. The Protector’s low-profile upper structure is sealed. It’s designed to meet a range of mission requirements. Another robot finding its way onto robotic and non-robotic platforms, Rafael’s Mini-Typhoon naval stabilized and remotely operated machine gun system, can be augmented with grenade and missile launchers.

GETTING SMARTER
Most of the robots deployed are remotely controlled. Companies developing and delivering these robots are working toward cooperative operation as well as single-controller, multiplerobot support. For example, Frontline Robotics has been working on cooperative robotics, and iRobot’s AWARE framework is designed to allow a newly awakened robot to link up with local controllers as well as other robots.

TAGS: Robotics
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