Unmanned ground vehicles demonstrated

By NICK DUKEOctober 16, 2013

usa image
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, Ga., (Oct. 16, 2013) -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence presented a look at the potential future of ground combat Thursday at a robotics demonstration.

Four unmanned ground vehicles went through a week of assessment before demonstrating lethal applications at Red Cloud Range.

Don Sando, director of the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, said the week's events and the demonstration were intended to help CDID determine what it wanted in UGVs going forward.

"We define the requirements for robotics applications," Sando said. "This week, and this event in particular, helps us understand what is possible from industry today and what is possible in the future. Our next step is to define those requirements accurately so the program managers and the acquisition community can then reach out to industry and go to the next step, which is building prototypes and making selections."

Each vehicle was mounted with an M240B machine gun, and took turns eliminating a series of targets from about 150 meters away, but all were capable of hitting targets at greater distances.

"We were pleased with what we saw," said Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of CDID's unmanned ground systems branch. "We think the technology and the capability to employ lethal robotics on the battlefield is slowly coming to fruition. We think eventually we'll be able to deploy lethal robotics with dismounted troops, and they'll one day be considered part of the team."

While the vehicles used the M240B during the demonstration, Sando said any future vehicles would need to be modular, meaning corporations will need to insure that vehicles have the capability to be mounted with different weapons systems.

"The collaboration we have with industry and academia is very important," he said. "Industry has been very receptive to our ideas. They helped us to understand what is possible today and where we can go in the future, so we certainly appreciate their participation today and over time as we work to improve our capabilities."

One of the vehicles was the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, produced by QinetiQ North America.

The MAARS can be positioned in remote areas and can also carry a direct or indirect fire weapon system.

The 710 Warrior, made by the iRobot Corporation, was also on display. According to iRobot, the 710 Warrior can accommodate different remote weapons systems. It is also capable of carrying heavy payloads over rough terrain and climbing stairs.

The Protector, produced by HDT Robotics, is designed specifically to support dismounted Infantry. At less than three feet wide, it is able to climb 45-degree grades and can carry 750 pounds of gear.

Northrop Grumman presented its CaMEL UGS at the demonstration. The CaMEL is designed to support early entry light units during the first few days of operations before heavier wheeled and armored forces are available.

CDID will now turn its attention to defining requirements for future UGVs, and Sando said safety would be a prime concern.

"One of the challenges we always have with robotics systems … is to have safety measures so they are applying lethal force when and where we want them to," he said.