War College Previews Future Robotics
February 13, 2008
CARLISLE BARRACKS, Pa. (Army News Service, Feb. 13, 2008) -- "I'm almost glad when I see a robot with his arm blown off, because I know that a $500 part is a lot easier to repair than the arm of a Soldier," said Dave Kowachek, a mechanical engineer at Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center.
TARDEC was one of the companies at the U.S. Army War College Robotics Day Feb. 12. The event was an opportunity for future leaders to see emerging technology.
Looking into the future of transformational technology means moving away from human capabilities and letting the robots do the dirty work.
"Robotics like this will help give EOD Soldiers a safe standing distance. We want to take the man out any mission that's dull, dirty or dangerous," said Kowachek.
Robotics Day plays an important role in educating effective commanders said Bill Waddell, director of the Command and Control Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership. "This event has a valuable strategic impact for War College students to see newly developing robotic capabilities, and this is critical in helping these leaders understand how this emerging technology will influence the future."
By inviting the robotic companies to the U.S. Army War College, the up and coming inventions have a stage to showcase their state-of-the art capabilities. The TALON EOD is one of the robots most recently fielded in Iraq. With about 1,500 deployed in theater now, it is an unmanned ground vehicle, receiving good reviews from Soldiers using it for explosive ordnance disposal.
Adam Keninston, a field service engineer for Foster-Miller Inc., travels around the country every week demonstrating the TALON. He also encourages the TALON for use in the civilian market for assistance to bomb squads and hazmat teams.
"The question I get asked the most is, 'How far can they go''" said Keninston. "And the answer to that is about one thousand meters line-of-sight."
Other up and coming robots like the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot, can do many jobs, even retrieving casualties. Much like the familiar Segway, this creation can travel over rugged terrain and lift up to 500 pounds. With the ability to extract a casualty from a battlefield or help someone trapped beneath debris, the BEAR, can take the place of a Soldier put at risk during a rescue situation. The BEAR can also detect bio-chemical hazards and has interchangeable hands for performing specific duties.
Andrew Allen, a robotics engineer for Vecna Technologies, Inc., is excited about the BEAR and points out its many possibilities: "I enjoy the opportunity to introduce this robot around the community and I am hoping to introduce it into fire fighting and search and rescue teams."
Students at the War College not only learn about the robots, but they learn the many issues involved in selection, funding, trialing and training. George Mouser, a retired colonel and former War College graduate, works with General Dynamics Robotic Systems. He sees Robotics Day as a chance to encourage future leaders to consider the integration of robotics into advanced war fighter systems.
"I see this as an opportunity for students to see the challenges of robotic integration, they can begin to think ahead and think of the Army as focused on modern technology that's on the very cusp of advanced ground robotics," Mouser said.
Bob Barnes, of the USAWC Command and Control Group (Robotics), is one of the key organizers for the whole event.
"Robotics Day in Pennsylvania in February is a challenge, but regardless of the weather, the contractors are always really excited and they enjoy interacting with their audience of future leaders," said Barnes. "It's great to get people interested in new technology, and maybe they'll go on to work in robotics one day."
Robotics Day is part of the core curriculum of the USAWC integrated with the DCLM, Department of Command Leadership and Management. This year, 24 guest instructors participated in the student seminars to discuss with future leaders how to help science and technology work together with acquisitions.
(Shelaine Tuytschaevers serves with the U.S. Army War College Public affairs office.)