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Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

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.

Leading Canadian Submersible Robotics Company Launching New Semi-Autonomous ROV System, REVOLUTION NAV

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020


The REVOLUTION NAV package makes locating, tracking and operating an ROV easier than ever before.

August 18, 2020 – Kitchener, Ontario – Taking a big step towards developing a hybrid autonomous vehicle, submersible robotics company Deep Trekker is proud to announce that they are launching a new ROV package, the REVOLUTION NAV. Offering advanced navigation and stabilization, this new package is leading the way in semi-autonomous vehicles. The REVOLUTION NAV package provides pilots with a Google map showing their ROV’s position on screen, allowing users to see where they are, leave a trail to show where they have been and set points of interest to where they want to return to. Furthermore, advanced stabilization features allow operators to station hold against currents, enable auto altitude and pilot their vehicle precisely and accurately through varying water conditions.

Solving harsh environmental situations with fully assembled, tested and ready to use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Deep Trekker gets eyes underwater in minutes. With applications in aquaculture, energy, shipping, defense, infrastructure and search and rescue among others, Deep Trekker’s underwater drones are on the leading edge of submersible technology.

“We are thrilled to be launching the REVOLUTION NAV,” shared Deep Trekker President Sam Macdonald. “With this new package, users will be able to know where they are in real time. This advanced navigational tool allows for more complex missions to be successfully carried out by ROV pilots.”

The REVOLUTION NAV’s capabilities are especially useful for applications in open, murky water or when there is significant current. The state-of-the-art features provide benefits across numerous applications for missions requiring precise navigation, location tracking and reporting. Search and recovery teams, for example, will be able to easily see and track what areas have been covered as part of the search. 

“The REVOLUTION NAV uses our BRIDGE technology and sensor fusion to provide station keeping, location tracking and intelligent navigation in addition to real time location data,” explained Macdonald. “We aim for constant innovation and the REVOLUTION NAV allows us to continue to provide advancements to our customers and pave the way towards autonomy.”

The pairing of USBL and DVL with Deep Trekker’s BRIDGE technology and sensor fusion bring this intelligent navigation system to life. USBL systems utilize sonar beacons to triangulate the position of the ROV. A GPS chip inside the Deep Trekker BRIDGE Controller allows the system to correlate the data and provide real time latitude and longitude. DVL offers users an enhanced navigational system by providing pilots with the ability to accurately and conveniently determine velocity relative to the seafloor, allowing for easy navigation through the most complex of operations. 

www.deeptrekker.com

Persistent Systems Completes Phase I of Robotic Command Vehicles program; Readies for Phase III

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Company officials say mobile ad hoc network will shine in complex, multi-unit battlefield scenarios 

For Immediate Release 

NEW YORK, N.Y. – August 18, 2020 – Persistent Systems, LLC (“Persistent”), a leader in mobile ad hoc network (MANET) solutions, announced today that it has successfully completed Phase I of the U.S. Army Robotic Command Vehicles (RCV) program.  

Run under the auspices of the Army Future Command’s Next Generation Combat Vehicles – Cross Functional Team, the RCV program aims to show the utility of manned-unmanned teaming with a future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) being able to control multiple RCV “wingmen.”   

During Phase I, a modified M113 tracked armored personnel carrier acted as an RCV surrogate while a modified Bradley infantry vehicle called the Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrator, or MET-D, served in lieu of a yet-to-be-built OMFV. 

 “We successfully networked the surrogate platforms in a point-to-point fashion with our Wave Relay MANET,” Brian Soles, VP of Government Relations & Business Strategy for Persistent Systems, said. “That means enabling the cameras, sensors and software as well as the command-and-control interface for control of the RCV and its gun systems.” 

Persistent Systems is now working with the Next Generation Combat Vehicles – Cross Functional Team and other stakeholders, such as Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center and C5ISR Center, to review lessons learned and further adapt Wave Relay capabilities. 

“We are really looking forward to Phase III of the Army RCV program,” Soles said, “because it’ll be a complex, RF-contested and -congested environment with multiple air, ground, and dismounted units, and that’s where Wave Relay’s scalability, resiliency and spectrum efficiency will shine.”    

Robotic Combat Vehicles Display Next-Gen Features in Live-Fire Exercises

Friday, August 14th, 2020

FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Army’s collection of armed robotic combat vehicles showcased an “exceptional” ability to identify enemy positions after about a month of testing, but more development is still needed to improve battlefield precision, said Brig. Gen. Richard Coffman.

Coffman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, praised the capabilities of the four robotic combat vehicles, or RCVs, during the platoon live-fire exercises here.

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division used two modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles, called Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, to control and maneuver the RCVs to determine whether the autonomous vehicles increased the lethality and efficiency of ground units.

“The ability [to spot enemies] was exceptional, because that reduces the risk on our Soldiers and allows us to remain in a covered and concealed position and make decisions,” Coffman said during a media conference call Thursday.

The MET-Ds, which are manned with six Soldiers, have 360-degree situational awareness cameras, a remote turret with a 25 mm main gun, and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens. The RCVs are M113 surrogate platforms that also have 360 cameras and fire 7.62 mm machine guns.

From inside the MET-Ds, Soldiers were able to control the RCVs up to a 2,000-meter range, but struggled to extend that distance in dense forest regions, Coffman said.

Developers plan to add more features to the vehicles in Phase II of testing, including a new radio tether to increase the operating range, an unmanned aerial vehicle and a target recognition capability based on synthetic data. Phase II, which is scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 at Fort Hood, Texas, will feature three platoons of robotic vehicle with control vehicles.

“This is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them more decision space and reducing the risk on our men and women,” Coffman said. “We go into the nastiest places on earth. And these robots are absolutely going to do that in the future. We’re not there 100% yet.”

A third party will evaluate the technical and tactical performance of the operating crews and robotic vehicles, as well as the overall success of the experiment. The findings will then be briefed to the service’s senior leaders.

After the evaluation of Phase II’s results, Coffman said the Army will decide whether to continue testing.

Room for improvement

Soldiers testing the autonomous vehicles noted that greater sensory capabilities must be developed for the controlled vehicles to serve as unmanned replacements.

“Right now we don’t have sensors that can tell whether we’re coming across a little puddle that we can just drive through or whether that puddle is 8 feet deep and going to bog us down,” said Jeffrey Langhout, director of the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle System Center. “A robot can navigate its own way and it relies on the sensors that it has to keep from driving into ditches and all kinds of problems. We certainly have a long way to go on that.”

Sgt. Matthew Morris, assigned to 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID, said the lack of downward visibility hindered operation of the RCVs. He said the vehicle’s ability to see down steep terrain must improve to prevent the vehicle from overturning.

When a human drives a vehicle into soft sand they instinctively know to shift to a lower driving gear and the RCVs must develop that sensitivity, Coffman said.

“For me specifically, I think that the ability to see downward once we approach certain inclines and declines would probably be an astute upgrade that would push us forward in the right direction,” Morris said, adding the vehicles must increase its audio signature to increase communication abilities with crew members.

Vehicle operator Sgt. Scott Conklin, who is also with 3rd ABCT, said that the two-person crew could handle the increased workload, but the frenetic pace of operating with the 360 cameras made the RCVs challenging to operate.

Coffman said regardless of how the program evolves, he said humans will retain a level of autonomy over the robotic combat vehicles.

“We don’t want a fully autonomous vehicle,” he said. “We don’t want the machine deciding. We want very specific rules of what that machine will and will not do. The humans are in charge.”

By Joseph Lacdan, Army News Service