Robotics Rodeo demos technology to save Soldiers' lives
September 10, 2009
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, Sept. 9, 2009) -- With all the displays down, robots safely packed away and evaluation sheets handed in, it was time to conclude the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo.
The end of the rodeo, however, signaled a new start for the exhibitors, who would return to their labs to read over evaluation sheets and begin to modify their robots based on Soldiers' feedback.
"Just wanted to thank everyone," said Dr. Grace Bochenek, director of the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, visiting from Warren, Mich.
"An event like this does take a lot to put together," she continued." We have learned a lot and with the evaluations, we will take more away from this. Let's move this robotics technology forward."
The four-day event started Aug. 31 and concluded Sept. 3 with a visit from Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
"It is exciting to see Soldiers and engineers working together toward the common goal of saving lives downrange," Dunwoody said. "The technology on display here will help revolutionize the way we fight wars and provide another piece of armor in our Soldiers' protective arsenal."
More than 30 exhibitors participated in the Robotics Rodeo.
"The intent is to save Soldiers lives. We are trying to demonstrate technology today to save Soldiers' lives tomorrow," said Lt. Col. Barry "Chip" Daniels, robotics project officer at III Corps.
The event featured tiny robots that a Soldier could throw through a window to get an idea of the enemy inside, to entire convoys of robots that were controlled autonomously.
This event brought Soldiers, the robotics developers and the science and technology community from across the Department of Defense together so the agencies could educate each other on state-of-the-art technology.
The developers and science and technology representatives educated the Soldiers on what the current state of technology is. The Soldier's educated developers on what they need in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, Daniels said.
The exhibitors demonstrated their robots' capabilities to a select group at the R2D2 site. The first R2D2 range demonstrated the capabilities of smaller autonomous, remotely operated mapping robots. The second range showcased remotely operated, autonomous vehicles and convoy operations.
"Each technology demonstrated at this site received feedback from 20 to 30 different people ranging from Soldiers to electronic engineers," said Jeff Jaster, TARDEC deputy associate director for autonomous systems. "This feedback was compiled and will be reviewed for future robotic operations."
After the technology was demonstrated at the R2D2 site, it was moved to the Phantom Run site. This site gave the developers another opportunity to showcase their technology.
Two large tents provided an area for exhibitors to set up and larger robots were viewed outside the tents. Phantom Run also had two lanes set up so exhibitors could give attendees the chance to see the robots in action and operate them.
"In Iraq I used robots to investigate IEDs (improvised explosive devices), place C-4 and multiple other missions," said Sgt. Solomon McCabe, team leader, 87th Engineer Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade. "I see a lot of potential in the unmanned robots and I think they will make a difference in the wars."
By 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles within the armed forces must be unmanned, Jaster said, citing an objective in the Fiscal Year 2001 Defense Authorization Act. He said the Robotics Rodeo gave developers and the science and technology community a foothold toward this goal.
The overall mission is to save troop's lives.
"Every time I get a robot back that has been blown up, it makes me glad that the robot got it and not a Soldier," Jaster said.
(Staff Sgt. Jason R. Krawczyk serves with III Corps Public Affairs.)