Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

Leader–Follower Vehicles to Offer Army Increased Operational Capability

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich — Modernization is the buzz word floating around the Army currently and with good reason. To keep ahead of our near-peer adversaries, we must develop better technologies faster to dominate the battle space.

“We’ve done a good job at keeping up with developing current technologies,” said Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, Commanding General U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. “However, we need to get it to the Soldiers in the field for it to matter.”

Werner, along with other officers and civilian leaders attended a Leader–Follower demonstration on Apr. 5 at the Detroit Arsenal. The event was led by the Ground Vehicle Systems Center on the arsenal to highlight the effectiveness of semi-autonomous robotic Tactical Wheeled Vehicles.

Bernard Theisen, Division Chief Combat Support Robotics and Safety for GVSC, briefed the capabilities of the Leader-Follower vehicles and stated that they had some similar on-road capabilities to some current high end luxury vehicles and other off-road capabilities unique to the military.

“The vehicles have the capability to be driven independently, remotely, or in this instance, made to follow a lead vehicle,” said Theisen.

The Leader–Follower vehicles offers field commanders better options when operating in a combat zone by providing manned and unmanned capabilities.

According to Alfred Grein, Acting Director GVSC, by installing robotic kits to vehicles, a lead “manned” vehicle can lead a convoy of one or more follower “unmanned” vehicles accurately and safely.

Outside of Leader–Follower option, the Program Executive Officer Combat Support and Combat Service Support is looking at fielding the technology as GVSC continues developing further ways to leverage and improve the capabilities at a later time.

“Now that the hardware is in place, we can look at ways to enhance the remote and semi-autonomous capabilities in the future,” said Grein. “All we have to do is update the software.”

There are currently 60 Leader–Follower systems issued to the 41st Transportation Company at Fort Polk, Louisiana with their next software upgrade currently undergoing safety testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. GVSC Agile Development, Security, and Operations approach through the Software Foundry allows for Soldier to provide constant feedback to the developers and to deliver better products to the user faster while supporting both PEO Ground Combat Systems and PEO CS &CSS operational needs.

By Scott Wakefield

Robot Dogs Arrive at Tyndall AFB

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) —

The first official semi-autonomous robot dogs were delivered to Tyndall Air Force Base March 22 for integration into the 325th Security Forces Squadron.

The purpose of the Quad-legged Unmanned Ground Vehicles, or Q-UGVs, is to add an extra level of protection to the base. The robot dogs, designed by Ghost Robotics and Immersive Wisdom, are the first of their kind to be integrated onto a military installation and one of many innovation-based initiatives to begin at Tyndall AFB, coined the “Installation of the Future.”

“As a mobile sensor platform, the Q-UGVs will significantly increase situational awareness for defenders,” said Mark Shackley, Tyndall AFB Program Management Office security forces program manager. “They can patrol the remote areas of a base while defenders can continue to patrol and monitor other critical areas of an installation.”

Features applied to the robot dogs allow for easy navigation on difficult terrains. The robot dogs can operate in minus 40-degree to 131-degree conditions and have 14 sensors to create 360-degree awareness. They are also equipped with a crouch mode that lowers their center-of-gravity and a high-step mode that alters leg mobility, among other features.

Tyndall AFB’s Program Management Office, the 325th SFS, the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron, Air Force Research Laboratory, communications and other organizations have been working since July 2020 to ensure the Q-UGVs are assembled properly before reaching Tyndall AFB. The installation is considered an ideal base to host the new robot dogs with its ongoing rebuild.

“Tyndall (AFB) is a perfect test base as it was deemed ‘The Installation of the Future,’” said Master Sgt. Krystoffer Miller, 325th SFS operations support superintendent. “Across the base, every squadron has been pushing the envelope of how we do things and expanding our optics of what is possible. One huge attraction piece of the robot dogs is that it’s highly mobile and with the amount of construction we will face over the next few years, it helps us maintain and increase our security posture.”

This new technology has the capability to revolutionize the way base security operates. Tyndall AFB is expected to set the benchmark for the rest of the Defense Department when it comes to Q-UGV usage.

“I can say that there is definitely a lot of interest in the capabilities of the technology,” Miller said. “I’m hopeful that other units will see some of the successes at Tyndall (AFB) and will continue to explore the use of non-conventional tactics.”

By Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Advancement Creates Nanosized, Foldable Robots

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Army-funded researchers created nanosized robots that could enable locomotion, novel metamaterial design and high-fidelity sensors.


Cornell University researchers created micron-sized shape memory actuators that fold themselves into 3D configurations and allow atomically thin 2D materials with just a quick jolt of voltage. Once the material is bent, it holds its shape, even after the voltage is removed.

To demonstrate the technology, the team created what is potentially the world’s smallest self-folding origami bird.

“The research team is pushing the boundary of how quickly and precisely we can control motion at the micro- and even nano-scales,” said Dr. Dean Culver, program manager for Complex Dynamics and Systems at Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “In addition to paving the way for nano-robots, the scientific advancements from this effort can enable smart material design and interaction with the molecular biological world that can assist the Army like never before.”

The research may result in future applications 10 to 20 years from now, he said.

In a peer-reviewed article published in Science Robotics, researchers said this work could make it possible for a million fabricated microscopic robots releasing from a wafer to fold themselves into shape, crawl free, and go about their tasks, even assembling into more complicated structures.

“We humans, our defining characteristic is we’ve learned how to build complex systems and machines at human scales, and at enormous scales as well,” said Prof. Paul McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science at Cornell University. “What we haven’t learned how to do is build machines at tiny scales.”

This is a step in that basic, fundamental evolution in what humans can do, of learning how to construct machines that are as small as cells, he said.

The researchers ongoing collaboration has generated a throng of nanoscale machines and components, each seemingly faster, smarter and more elegant than the last.

“We want to have robots that are microscopic but have brains on board,” said Prof. Itai Cohen, professor of physics at Cornell University. “That means you need to have appendages that are driven by complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor transistors, basically a computer chip on a robot that’s 100 microns on a side. The hard part is making the materials that respond to the CMOS circuits.”

This shape memory actuator developed by the research teams allows them to drive with voltage and make the materials hold a bent shape. The machines fold themselves fast–within 100 milliseconds. They can also flatten and refold themselves thousands of times and they only need a single volt to be powered to life.

“These are major advances over current state-of-the-art devices,” Cohen said. “We’re really in a class of our own.”

These actuators can bend with a radius of curvature smaller than a micron–the highest curvatures of any voltage-driven actuator by an order of magnitude. This flexibility is important because one of the bedrock principles of microscopic robot manufacturing is that the robot size is determined by how small the various appendages can be made to fold. The tighter the bends, the smaller the folds, and the tinier the footprint for each machine. It’s also important that these bends can be held by the robot, which minimizes the power consumption, a feature especially advantageous for microscopic robots and machines.

The devices consist of a nanometer-thin layer of platinum capped with a titanium or titanium dioxide film. Several rigid panels of silicon dioxide glass sit atop those layers. When a positive voltage is applied to the actuators, oxygen atoms are driven into the platinum and swap places with platinum atoms.

This process, called oxidation, causes the platinum to expand on one side in the seams between the inert glass panels, which bends the structure into its predesignated shape. The machines can hold that shape even after the voltage is removed because the embedded oxygen atoms bunch up to form a barrier, which prevents them from diffusing out.

By applying a negative voltage to the device, the researchers can remove the oxygen atoms and quickly restore the platinum to its pristine state. And by varying the pattern of the glass panels, and whether the platinum is exposed on the top or bottom, they can create a range of origami structures actuated by mountain and valley folds.

“One thing that’s quite remarkable is that these little tiny layers are only about 30 atoms thick, compared to a sheet of paper, which might be 100,000 atoms thick. It’s an enormous engineering challenge to figure out how to make something like that have the kind of functionalities we want,” McEuen said.

The team is currently working to integrate their shape memory actuators with circuits to make walking robots with foldable legs as well as sheet-like robots that move by undulating forward. These innovations may someday lead to nanorobots that can clean bacterial infection from human tissue, microfactories that can transform manufacturing and robotic surgical instruments that are 10 times smaller than current devices, according to Cohen.

The team is also researching the principles that need to change in order to design, manufacture and operate machines at this scale.

In addition to ARO, the National Science Foundation, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science funded the work.

By U.S. Army DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Discovery Could Lead to Self-Propelled Robots

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Army-funded researchers discovered how to make materials capable of self-propulsion, allowing materials to move without motors or hands.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered how to make materials that snap and reset themselves, only relying upon energy flow from their environment. This research, published in Nature Materials and funded by the U.S. Army, could enable future military robots to move from their own energy.

“This work is part of a larger multi-disciplinary effort that seeks to understand biological and engineered impulsive systems that will lay the foundations for scalable methods for generating forces for mechanical action and energy storing structures and materials,” said Dr. Ralph Anthenien, branch chief, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “The work will have myriad possible future applications in actuation and motive systems for the Army and DOD.”

Researchers uncovered the physics during a mundane experiment that involved watching a gel strip dry. The researchers observed that when the long, elastic gel strip lost internal liquid due to evaporation, the strip moved. Most movements were slow, but every so often, they sped up.

These faster movements were snap instabilities that continued to occur as the liquid evaporated further. Additional studies revealed that the shape of the material mattered, and that the strips could reset themselves to continue their movements.

“Many plants and animals, especially small ones, use special parts that act like springs and latches to help them move really fast, much faster than animals with muscles alone,” said Dr. Al Crosby, a professor of polymer science and engineering in the College of Natural Sciences, UMass Amherst. “Plants like the Venus flytraps are good examples of this kind of movement, as are grasshoppers and trap-jaw ants in the animal world.”

Snap instabilities are one way that nature combines a spring and a latch and are increasingly used to create fast movements in small robots and other devices as well as toys like rubber poppers.

“However, most of these snapping devices need a motor or a human hand to keep moving,” Crosby said. “With this discovery, there could be various applications that won’t require batteries or motors to fuel movement.”

After learning the essential physics from the drying strips, the team experimented with different shapes to find the ones most likely to react in expected ways, and that would move repeatedly without any motors or hands resetting them. The team even showed that the reshaped strips could do work, such as climb a set of stairs on their own.

“These lessons demonstrate how materials can generate powerful movement by harnessing interactions with their environment, such as through evaporation, and they are important for designing new robots, especially at small sizes where it’s difficult to have motors, batteries, or other energy sources,” Crosby said.

The research team is coordinating with DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory to transfer and transition this knowledge into future Army systems.

By U.S. Army DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Tomahawk Robotics Brings its Kinesis “Universal Robotic Controller” App for Unmanned Systems to MPU5 Networked Radio

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Tomahawk Robotics, developer of the Kinesis common control system, joins other industry partners using Persistent’s Wave Relay® mobile ad hoc network and associated hardware.

NEW YORK, Jan. 19, 2021 // — Persistent Systems, LLC (“Persistent”) announced today that Tomahawk Robotics has joined the Wave Relay® Ecosystem, a rapidly growing industry alliance of unmanned system and sensor companies that use Persistent’s Wave Relay® mobile ad hoc network (MANET) as their preferred network.

As part of this agreement, Tomahawk Robotics will make its Kinesis, an Android™-based common control system for leading unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems, available for Persistent’s MPU5 Android™-based MANET radio and Rugged Display and Controller (RDC).

“Basically, this provides a ‘universal controller’ for unmanned systems that resides on the MPU5 and is accessed with the RDC, both of which the dismounted warfighter would already be carrying,” said Brian Mcdonald, Field Operations Director at Persistent Systems. “So, you eliminate the weight and cost of extra hardware, and you bring Tomahawk’s all-encompassing Kinesis capability to everyone on the tactical team, not just the UxV operator.”

The MPU5 runs the Android operating system, enabling apps like Kinesis to be loaded directly onto the radio, while the RDC provides the touch screen, joysticks, and gamepad buttons in a formfactor the size of a commercial smartphone.

“With the intuitive, easy-to-use Kinesis, you can operate any unmanned system on the land, in the air or on the water,” said Matt Summer, CTO at Tomahawk Robotics. “You don’t need specialized controllers or training for each individual system.”

Should the mission require, as in the case of finely manipulating the arm of a bomb disposal robot, the MPU5 and RDC can operate seamlessly with the Tomahawk Robotics Mimic spatial controller.

“We look forward to collaborating with Tomahawk Robotics because, together, we are bringing the warfighter incredible capabilities in a small, lightweight package, making it easier on the user and more affordable for the customer,” Mcdonald said. 

All Byte, No Bark for Air Force Security Forces’ ‘Robotic K-9’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) —

As a part of its one-year pilot program, the Ghost Robotics Vision 60 visited Scott Air Force Base during an evaluation of the robot’s capabilities.

Heading the test was Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Lab. The lab identifies, validates and inserts new concepts and technology to enable Agile Combat Employment and its contributions to all-domain warfare.

The Vision 60 autonomous quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle is an all-terrain, dog-like robot equipped with enhanced sensors.

“By no means is this meant to replace a real K-9,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marcos Garcia, ACC Detachment 3 Agile Battle Lab, AMC liaison. “It is simply a force multiplier and can even maybe save some K-9 lives. The experts in the field envision it supplementing a bomb team or leading a foot patrol.”

This innovative piece of machinery was created to be a low-cost, low-risk force multiplier. Ultimately, this program has the capability of protecting a life.

“The major selling point of this technology is that it’s meant to be expendable, whereas our Airmen are not,” said Master Sgt. Justin Hanlon, 375th Security Forces Squadron operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We can replace parts on the ghost robot and get it back out to the mission, but the same cannot be said of a human being. The bottom line is this cements our commitment to mitigating risk to our Airmen and protecting them from unnecessary danger.”

Equipped with integrated sensors, the Q-UGV can capture a high-definition video stream and thermal imaging, and boasts an infrared configuration. The Q-UGV also utilizes legs that can attain a current speed of seven feet per second and has been tested to outperform wheels, tracks and drones for certain uses in the field.

“Instead of using a human being as a sentry, imagine a mobile sensor with a high-definition, wide-angle camera and long-range capabilities being controlled by a trained Airman from the safety and security of a Base Defense Operations Center or a Theatre Operations Center in both a garrison or contested environment,” Hanlon said.

During the evaluation at Scott AFB, the ABL sought the insight of force professionals on improvements to the robotic K-9.

“We are a team of motivated innovators and know we have many talented Airmen with great ideas,” Garcia said. “We want to harvest those great ideas and bring them to fruition so we can bring our Air Force into the future.”

While the implementation of this technology is still in its infancy, it has the latent ability to bring the Air Force into a new era of warfighting.

“The ghost robot has potential to aid the enterprise in getting away from the past where we had Airmen walk wingtip to wingtip on flying assets,” Hanlon said. “We can employ our manpower smarter and more efficiently and this may be a small step to that competency.”

As the Air Force looks to close gaps and move towards Agile Combat Employment and Joint All Domain Command and Control, the use of new innovative technology like the Q-UGV may become common across military installations as we seek to enhance mission effectiveness.

By Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Rheinmetall Unveils Its New Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance system: Enhanced Situational Awareness and Frontline Fire Support

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Rheinmetall’s game-changing Mission Master Autonomous – Unmanned Ground Vehicle (A-UGV) family has just gained a new member: the Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance. Equipped with intelligence-gathering technology and a Rheinmetall Fieldranger remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS), the new Armed Reconnaissance module is designed to collect tactical intelligence in the area of operations while providing frontline fire support whenever necessary.

Crewless recon missions maximize troop security

Autonomous robotic vehicles offer countless advantages, including in a reconnaissance context. The Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance is designed to execute high-risk scouting missions and deliver a real-time common operating picture without putting soldiers in danger. Since an enormous volume of data is gathered during missions of this type, Rheinmetall’s new A-UGV is equipped with resilient, highly reliable systems. Its payload consists of long-range EO/IR sensors, a surveillance radar, a 360° full ring camera, a laser rangefinder and a laser designator to identify potential threats. To further enhance the line of sight for the sensors while keeping a concealed posture, the reconnaissance payload is installed on a 3.5-metre expandable mast with a tilting mechanism. This convenient feature allows for increased and safe transportability on any platform, even a CH-53 or CH-47 Chinook.

The Armed Reconnaissance module also features radio-agnostic architecture, which means it can accommodate any type of radio that customers may need. The bidirectional communication system permits clear exchanges with HQ and other A-UGVs, giving commanders greater situational awareness. When engaging enemy forces, the Rheinmetall Fieldranger Light 7.62 mm RCWS will provide much more firepower than the usual man-carried section weapon. Engagement of targets is remote-controlled, never autonomous.

Safe operation at all times

As with the other modules of the Mission Master family, the Armed Reconnaissance owes its autonomous functions to the Rheinmetall PATH autonomous kit (A-kit). Proven, agnostic, trusted and highly autonomous, PATH is designed to enable military vehicles to operate in unmanned mode, freeing up soldiers for other duties and keeping them out of immediate danger. The A-kit provides a wide range of teleoperation options for the Mission Master, including a tablet, smartwatch, soldier system, and single-hand controller. These devices enable full access to advanced PATH features such as follow-me, convoy and autonomous navigation modes. Each control mode incorporates multiple layers of protection to ensure that the vehicle operates safely at all times. Moreover, Rheinmetall is committed to keeping a man in the loop in all kinetic operations, assuring that a human decides when to open fire, never a machine.

A comprehensive Mission Master family

The new Armed Reconnaissance module is the latest addition to the modular Mission Master family, widely acclaimed for its all-terrain manoeuvrability and ability to keep troops safe when deployed in harm’s way. The Cargo module can carry over half a ton of supplies, relieving the burden on troops keeping them fresh. The Fire Support modules boost the combat power of dismounted units, while the Rescue module autonomously evacuates casualties and carries specialized equipment for medical interventions in the field. In addition, every single module is equipped with a Blue Force tracking system that is fully compatible with NATO standards.

Like all members of the Mission Master family, the Armed Reconnaissance version is already networked to the Argus soldier system and Rheinmetall Command and Control Software, which can be installed in any user’s battle management system.

Power of the Wolf Pack

The addition of the Armed Reconnaissance to the Mission Master suite turns Rheinmetall’s groundbreaking Wolf Pack concept into a reality. The Wolf Pack consists of multiple Mission Master vehicles efficiently operating as a team in order to accomplish missions of all types, including zone surveillance, reconnaissance, target position transfer and slew-to-cue. All units communicate with each other and use artificial intelligence to maintain the total situational awareness necessary for carrying out their missions.

A genuine force multiplier, the entire Wolf Pack can be managed by a single operator from anywhere using the LTE network, SATCOM, or military cloud. It is an intuitive concept that enables one operator – rather than multiple uncoordinated operators – to focus on the overall mission rather than managing all the tasks of each A-UGV. As Rheinmetall continues to develop new modules for the Mission Master family, the Wolf Pack’s range of capabilities will only increase, significantly improving the military’s ability to achieve overmatch against increasingly capable enemies.

Netherlands and Estonia to Acquire Seven Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS UGVs

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

The Estonian Centre for Defence Investment (ECDI) signed a Joint Procurement Agreement with the Dutch authorities to procure a total of seven THeMIS unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) from Milrem Robotics, the leading developer of robotics and autonomous systems in Europe.

Milrem Robotics will deliver four THeMIS vehicles acquired by the Royal Netherlands Army in the coming months. The Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) will receive their three vehicles this month.

According to the contract, Milrem Robotics is the system integrator who, in addition to the supplying the vehicles, also performs all the integration of third-party technologies, including weapons systems, onto the delivered UGVs. Notably these unmanned weapons systems will remain under human control.

“We are pleased that the unmanned ground vehicles developed by an Estonian company in the course of a defence research and development project supported by the Estonian Ministry of Defence can now be used by our armed forces,” said Ivar Janson, Strategic Category Manager for Armoured Vehicles at the ECDI. “We are especially pleased, that we found a common ground with our Dutch partners to conduct the Joint R&D project and procurement,” he added.

“We are delighted to enhance our cooperation with Milrem Robotics by increasing our fleet to six THeMIS vehicles in joint efforts with the Estonian Ministry of Defence. So far, the THeMIS has successfully been used for research and experiments by operational units of the 13 Light Brigade in Scotland, Germany, The Netherlands and during a live fire exercise in Austria. The addition of four extra THeMIS vehicles with a Remote Controlled Weapon System that is operated by a soldier provides us the opportunity to continue to develop concepts to enhance the combat power and decrease the risk for our soldiers,” said LtCol Martijn Hadicke, Commander of the Robot and Autonomous Systems (RAS) unit.

Milrem Robotics has already delivered two THeMIS UGVs to the RAS Unit of the 13th Light Brigade of the Royal Netherlands in 2019.

The Estonian Defence Forces used the THeMIS for 12 months in Mali during Operation Barkhane. Various EDF units have first-hand experience with the UGV from several military exercises.

Milrem Robotics’ first product, the THeMIS UGV has been delivered to nine countries of which seven are NATO members. The company’s other products are the Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, intended to support mechanized units, and the Intelligent Functions Integration Kit, which enables the THeMIS but also other unmanned ground vehicles autonomous functionalities like waypoint navigation and follow-me. Milrem Robotics also performs system integration of capabilities such as sensors, software and sensor based intelligent functions, and weapon systems.

The company also leads iMUGS, an EDIDP funded project. This project develops the European standard architecture for unmanned ground vehicles and their management system, including cyber defence solutions, and demonstrates the advantages of unmanned systems for enhancing defence capabilities.