By David McNally, ARL Public AffairsSeptember 29, 2016
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- A small four-wheeled robot makes its way down the corridor of an office building. Laser sensors create maps of the surroundings and relay that information back to Army scientists to provide a three-dimensional view. This skill may one day lead to enhanced manned-unmanned teaming where robots perform tasks autonomously and reward Soldiers with situational awareness.
This was just one project Army researchers demonstrated to a senior official during a day of briefings at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Sept. 27, 2016.
Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, who serves as the commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia, toured the laboratory to learn about the latest science and technology initiatives to support the Soldier of the future.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence provides "trained, agile and adaptive combat-ready Soldiers and Leaders and develops the doctrine and capabilities of the maneuver force and the individual Soldier," according to the organization's website.
"My mindset is maybe not where some of my peers at the other centers of excellence is, and that's 'What can I get to the field tomorrow or the next few years?'" Wesley said. "I feel like if we're going to shape the Army, we're going to have to shape it for around 2030 and beyond."
During demonstrations, Army neuroscientist Dr. Jean Vettel, from ARL's Human Research and Engineering Directorate, showed the general her research on combining human skills with computer algorithms to optimize target identification and further machine learning.
"Whenever we want humans and machines to work well together as a team, one of the challenges is how to get more knowledge about the human," Vettel said. "Our goal is to find out how we can do neuroscience where we can start quantifying individuals and then design individualized technologies."
Army researchers also briefed the officials on their quest for coatings that may protect future engines from the catastrophic effects of sand.
"When small sand particles enter the engine, they tend to melt and start to form a glass coating, which accumulates on the hot components within an engine," explained Dr. Michael Walock, a scientist with the lab's Vehicle Technology Directorate. "This causes problems. We have a rapid loss of power due to the accumulation. For a tank, that's bad because now you're a hard target because you can't move. For a rotorcraft, if you lose 10-percent of your power, you're no longer flying and your hover goes to a crash."
Walock said they are working on coating solutions to repel sand.
Wesley also learned about research on the 3-D printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, known as ODSUAS.
"This is part of a collaboration between ARL and Georgia Tech and focuses on the Sciences for Maneuver Science and Technology Campaign," said Eric Spero, a team lead with ARL VTD. "Our technology is not about UASs," he said. "It's about the capability to design and build on-demand. The concept takes advantage of 3-D printing as a future enabler and positions us, as the U.S. military, to take advantage of increasingly better manufacturing technologies."
Wesley concluded his visit by meeting with scientists and engineers from the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.
"You've got my attention," Wesley told the researchers. "I'm not here just based on mild interest. I go to sleep thinking about what we're doing to enable the Army after next."
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.