DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. (Jan. 13, 2015) -- Sensors are making the Army's ground vehicle fleet more intelligent by providing a safer, more agile operating environment for American Soldiers.

Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, are seeking advancements in autonomy-enabled systems and intelligent mobility.

"Sensors, and the interactive connectivity they provide the user, are a crucial component to providing the most intelligent vehicles capable of performing under diverse environmental conditions anywhere in the world," said Jeremy Gray, TARDEC Ground Vehicle Robotics research scientist. "To get to where the Army needs to be, sensors must provide performance input that can be calculated, analyzed and lead to vehicle actuation in fewer than 60 milliseconds."

Army engineers are researching and designing unique high-speed sensors that can be embedded into vehicle platforms and/or vehicle tires and wheels.

"Early development has begun on a wheel-speed sensor that provides readable information about a change of rotational speed during a very, very small time interval," Gray said. "In order to achieve optimal agility, the vehicle needs to react in real-time to these acting forces."

Gray hopes ongoing sensor research will pay dividends for vehicle manned-unmanned teaming by placing continued emphasis on providing Soldiers with equipment that will help reduce their burden.

TARDEC and its partners have conducted several demonstrations of unmanned capabilities, including the recent Multi-Autonomous System Control demo, which allowed several autonomous vehicles to be overseen from a single command center.

"We can aid autonomy-enabled vehicles with off-road mobility through terrain-sensing parameters that can be calculated, analyzed and passed to following vehicles within the convoy for pre-emptive mobility control," Gray said. "Updating and map building for terrain characterization of soil parameters, such as density, moisture, friction coefficient and type, is vital."

TARDEC is also working closely with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, military users and the acquisition community to advance the development of autonomous appliqué systems for tactical vehicles and make these capabilities available for fleet integration by 2020. Sensors deliver optionally-manned and unmanned ground vehicles require an understanding of the terrain they are attempting to traverse, successfully guiding themselves through a dynamic, complex and environmentally uncertain world.

"Multi-perspective and multi-sensory perception solutions are a growing field of interest to assist in this area as processor computational capabilities increase and processor off-loading techniques, such as use of graphical processing units, are explored," said Phil Frederick, a TARDEC robotics research scientist and engineer.

TARDEC has focused research to use potentially, but differing, sources of information to inform automated decision processes at various levels of system control, Frederick said.

The Army's future will, and must, include advanced autonomy-enabled technologies, according to TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers. The center has made development of optionally-manned and unmanned systems a priority, with continued growth of sensor technology imperative to success.

"We will achieve this not by replacing Soldiers, but by providing a continuum of capabilities that will augment and enable them, while filling some of the Army's most challenging capability gaps," Rogers said. "To prevent, shape and win future conflicts in a changing world, Army S&T must deliver timely and technologically-advanced solutions that address our top priority capability gaps and ensure that our Soldiers have the very best equipment available."

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This article appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on sensors research. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.

The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness--technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment--to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.