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What is it?
Robotics based systems are man-made devices capable of sensing, comprehending, and interacting with the environment to execute functions normally performed by humans. Robotic technologies incorporate mechanical components, computers, sensors, and other specialized elements. Most robotic applications are geared toward performing repetitive, dangerous, or difficult work with some degree of "man in the loop" control. Robotics applications within the Army can be sorted into two broad categories: unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and unmanned aircraft systems.

What has the Army done?
The Army continues to leverage robotics technologies to support ongoing missions. Robotics technologies are countering threats from improvised explosive devices and are providing new tools to improve operational, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions. Both ground and aerial robotics technologies are maturing quickly and will be leveraged as part of the Army Future Combat Systems. The United States Army Research Laboratory's (ARL) Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance agreement with industry and academia is leading Army robotics research and development for the Future Force.

In August 2006, the United States Army Logistics Innovation Agency (LIA) conducted robotics analysis to identify policy and doctrinal implications of robotics and identify near-term, high pay-off logistics applications. This analysis laid the groundwork for further exploration with robotic capabilities to improve logistics agility and maximize Soldier protection.

What continued efforts does Army have planned for the future?

The Army/Marine Corps Ground Robotics Master Plan (dated July 25, 2007) provides a detailed description of current UGV robotics projects. The Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032, developed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (dated December 10, 2007) provides an overview of objectives, current capabilities, and a future vision for ground, aircraft, and maritime systems development. Future robotics research areas include development of advanced perception capabilities, intelligent control architectures, tactical behaviors, micro autonomous systems and technology, and improved human-robot interfaces.

Ongoing logistics related work includes the use of robotics to enhance convoy safety, development of exoskeleton devices to enhance strength and endurance, and the use of robotics to improve medical care. Based on the advancing state of robotics technology and potential benefits, LIA began development of agile robotics for logistics capabilities in April 2008, with the goal of demonstrating the operational potential for manipulating, moving, placing and retrieving bulk sustainment commodities in an unstructured tactical environment under multimodal command. The LIA is working with the Combined Arms Support Command Sustainment Battle Laboratory, ARL, Defense Research and Engineering, and other robotics community stakeholders to drive focused demonstration and adoption of promising logistics robotics capabilities. Initial agile robotics for logistics capabilities were demonstrated in August 2008 and included a one-half scale working prototype, simulation environment, and personal digital assistant command interface capable of instructing a material handling robotic vehicle using natural language and gesture commands. A capstone demonstration of agile robotics for logistics robotics capabilities is planned for 3rd Quarter FY09.

Why is this important to the Army?
Use of unmanned robotics capabilities will allow for high-performance, agile, and flexible Soldier support, while maximizing the protection of our Soldiers. Congress set a goal through H. R.4205, Sec. 217 for the armed forces to field unmanned technology so that by 2010, one-third of the operational deep strike aircraft, and by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles are unmanned. As robotics technology advances, future land combat forces will gain significant new operational capabilities permitting paradigm shifts in the conduct of ground warfare, concurrent with significantly greater survivability, flexibility, deployability, and supportability of United States forces.

POC: Mr. J. Yates (703) 805-5029

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