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Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

DSEi 21 – Aimlock RS1

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

The Aimlock RS1 is a weapon stabilization system which can be mounted to UAS like this Alta Drone. It will accept weapons up into the .30 range and the mechanism mitigates recoil as well as facilitating aiming and remote firing. They also offer an autonomous fire control solution.

The RS1 is a miniaturized version of the RM1 seen below which will accept crew-served weapons like the M240 but all the way up to the new .338 NM guns. It can be mounted on small vehicles like the MRZR or used on a tripod in overwatch.

Aimlock systems are available in the UK from Edgar Brothers PMD.

The Aardvark Group Unveils RANG-R at DSEI

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

The RANG-R (Remote Autonomous Next Generation-Rover) is Aardvark’s next generation, class leading, multi-role, autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) developed through a collaboration with some of the leading minds in the fields of Autonomous vehicles, Artificial Intelligence, Sensor Technology, and the Human Machine Interface to extend critical missions whilst massively reducing the human burden.

Key capabilities:

• Can be deployed on logistics support, C-EO / C-IED, humanitarian and conservation

missions.

• Payload capacity of 3,850Kg (2 x NATO pallets).

• Autonomous load and off load capability.

• Maximum speed of 70 kph.

• Range of 100 km and 72 hr run time without resupply.

RANG-R will be deployed in Defence, Policing, Security and Search & Rescue environs with an advanced toolkit adaptable to match a vast scope of operational requirements and was borne out of our clients informing us that their operations were becoming more remote, more complex, harder to supply and in vastly more hazardous environments. These factors have resulted in the need to carry high levels of capability, equipment, and supplies to maintain the welfare of operators, potentially at the cost of task effectiveness and ultimately increasing the physical burden on the team.

By working with operators around the globe, Aardvark has created an advanced technological solution to these client needs by developing a UGV that can provide crucial support to the front line, reduce the logistical burden of resupply, whilst delivering security and supporting the sustainment of effort on the task. RANG-R can be fitted with a range of tools designed to mitigate a wide variety of threats whilst integrating with other advanced technologies to provide enhanced situational awareness.

The Aardvark Group’s CEO, David St John-Claire said:

“Our clients required a multi-role UGV solution that embodied the Aardvark ethos of reliability, survivability and affordability and I truly believe that the RANG-R delivers fully against that requirement.

“I am incredibly proud of the Aardvark family of colleagues and strategic partners who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to deliver RANG-R to market.”

www.aardvark.group

Eastern National Robot Rodeo Showcases EOD Emerging Capabilities

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

INDIAN HEAD, Md. (AFNS) —

Explosive ordnance disposal and bomb squad experts in the Department of Defense and civilian sector tested the latest EOD robotics and emerging capabilities during the Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities exercise Aug. 2-6.

The Robot Rodeo, in its fifth year, was back after more than a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, conducted at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division and town of Indian Head, brought together experienced EOD operators and public safety bomb squads to evaluate EOD capabilities in real-world operating environments and provide real-time feedback to industry partners.

“Everyone – sponsors, vendors and participants – was excited about the 2021 ENRR-CAPEX, especially after having to cancel the 2020 event due to the COVID pandemic,” said Dr. John Olive, deputy director of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s EOD Division and Air Force EOD subject matter expert.

The rodeo is extremely important to AFCEC, which is responsible for central procurement of equipment for the Department of the Air Force’s 1,700 Total Force operators at 84 locations around the globe.

“The rodeo showcases technologies under development from various industry vendors and has a direct impact in putting the absolute best tools in the hands of our EOD and public safety bomb squad operators, and international partners,” he said.

While all CE missions are critical to the Department of the Air Force and mission platforms, EOD is perhaps the most dangerous.

“Having these technologies that give our operators the ability to do more standoff investigation, interrogation and mitigation of hazards, keeps our warfighters out of harm’s range and enables them to do things more efficiently,” said Col. John Tryon, AFCEC Detachment 1 commander.

AFCEC in general is always looking to push the envelope and do things smarter and more efficiently, Tryon said, with EOD in particular always being on the cutting edge.

“With new threats it won’t be one or two unexploded ordnance we’ll be dealing with in future, it will be hundreds or thousands of UXOs and we have a limited number of EOD operators. We need technologies that we can leverage, that are force multipliers, so we can achieve the result that we need,” Tryon said.

In addition to the equipment showcase, ENRR included a multi-day, multi-event technical competition to include potential real-world scenarios like a swarm of unmanned aerial systems employing explosive devices, and clearance of a homemade explosive laboratory, while integrating emerging technologies such as advanced radio graphics and multi-shot disruption off from existing robotic platforms.

“Participating multi-agency teams were given one hour to train on new equipment, then given three hours to complete a scenario that challenges that new technology,” Olive said. “Operators provided vendors direct feedback, which shapes future development of that technology in-line with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s accelerate change or lose initiative.”

The rodeo directly allows AFCEC to build relationships with industry partners, public safety bomb squads and various other agencies, Olive added, to shape future tech development and “enable us to better support our nine core mission areas for the Air Force EOD program.”

“Getting military and civilian bomb techs together is vital to the overall success of defeating hazardous devices,” said T.J. Brantley, a member of Plano Police Department’s Bomb Squad in Texas. “You get the opportunity to talk about different tactics and procedures other teams are using. Meeting with vendors and getting hands-on training with the latest and greatest technology available helps us do our job safely. Hands down (Robot Rodeo) was one of the best training opportunities I have been to.”

During the event’s distinguished visitor day, Brig. Gen. Bill Kale, director of Air Force Civil Engineers, said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with industry.

“I think it’s very important, as civil engineers, that we stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Kale said. “We need to make sure that whatever we decide to procure, or what we’re looking at, that we can use it or innovate it to improve our readiness.

“We have quite a challenge ahead of us with near peer competition with some of our adversaries and we need to use every tool in our toolkit to make sure we make it challenging for them to even think about trying to come after the United States or our interests,” Kale said.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Readiness Directorate was one of four sponsors for the event, but it was a joint effort with Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division and the town of Indian Head as hosts, and the United States Bomb Technicians Association as a core partner.

“We very much appreciate the NSWC hosting ENRR and the opportunity to come together with the different vendors that provide the robots, sensors and different technologies that EOD teams can employ now and in the future, and for them to interact with our Air Force and joint partner warfighters,” Tryon said. “Actually getting some stick time and providing direct feedback with the vendors is valuable for them not only on how to adapt their technologies, but also for us being able to see what we want to add to our arsenal going forward.

By Debbie Aragon, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Leaping Squirrels Could Help Scientists Develop More Agile Robots

Friday, August 20th, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Understanding the split-second decisions squirrels make as they jump from tree branch to tree branch will help scientists develop more agile robots.

With funding from the U.S. Army, researchers at University of California, Berkeley studied how squirrels decide whether or not to take a leap and how they assess their biomechanical abilities to know whether they can land safely.

Understanding how squirrels learn the limits of their agility could help scientists design autonomous robots that can nimbly move through varied landscapes to help with military missions such as traveling through the rubble of a collapsed building to aid in search and rescue or to quickly access an environmental threat.

“The team at UC Berkeley is challenging the comfort zone of today’s robotic design in a very clever way, taking us one step closer to tomorrow’s truly autonomous and versatile robots,” said Dr. Dean Culver, program manager for Complex Dynamics and Systems at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “Studying organisms’ behavior, like jumping squirrels, lets the engineering community ask fascinating questions about an autonomous agent trying to navigate an uncertain environment. For example, what stimuli cause learning? How does the interplay between structural compliance in a limb and surprises in an environment permit adjustments during a maneuver?”

To tackle these questions, Dr. Robert Full, professor at UC Berkeley and former doctoral student Dr. Nathanial Hunt, now an assistant professor of biomechanics at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, joined forces with professor of psychology Dr. Lucia Jacobs and former UC Berkeley doctoral student Judy Jinn.

Jacobs and her students developed precise methods to study cognition in wild campus squirrels, and they proposed integrating these studies with biomechanics, extending Full’s laboratory models not only to mammals for the first time, but to a wild mammal–squirrels–that had experienced the full natural development of its agility.

In the journal Science, the researchers report on their experiments on free-ranging squirrels, quantifying how they learn to leap from different types of launching pads–some bendy, some not–in just a few attempts, how they change their body orientation in midair based on the quality of their launch, and how they alter their landing maneuvers in real-time, depending on the stability of the final perch.

“As a model organism to understand the biological limits of balance and agility, I would argue that squirrels are second to none,” said Hunt, now an assistant professor of biomechanics at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “If we try to understand how squirrels do this, then we may discover general principles of high-performance locomotion in the canopy and other complex terrains that apply to the movements of other animals and robots.”

Researchers conducted the experiments in a eucalyptus grove on the UC Berkeley campus, where the Berkeley team enticed fox squirrels that roam the campus into sketchy situations where they had to decide whether to leap for a peanut or let it go.

They found that, as expected, the flimsier or more compliant the branch from which squirrels have to leap, the more cautious they were. But, it took squirrels just a few attempts to adjust to different compliances.

“When they leap across a gap, they decide where to take off based on a tradeoff between branch flexibility and the size of the gap they must leap,” Hunt said. “And when they encounter a branch with novel mechanical properties, they learn to adjust their launching mechanics in just a few jumps. This behavioral flexibility that adapts to the mechanics and geometry of leaping and landing structures is important to accurately leaping across a gap to land on a small target.”

The squirrels don’t balance the bendiness of the launching branch and the gap distance equally. In fact, the compliance of the branch was six times more critical than the gap distance in deciding whether to jump.

This may be because squirrels know that their sharp claws will save them if they miscalculate. Their claws are so failproof, Hunt said, that none of the squirrels ever fell, despite wobbly leaps and over- or undershot landings.

“They’re not always going to have their best performance–they just have to be good enough,” he said. “They have redundancy. So, if they miss, they don’t hit their center of mass right on the landing perch, they’re amazing at being able to grab onto it. They’ll swing underneath, they’ll swing over the top. They just don’t fall.”

That’s where exploration and innovation come into play as squirrels search for the best leaping strategy.

“If they leap into the air with too much speed or too little speed, they can use a variety of landing maneuvers to compensate,” Hunt said. “If they jump too far, they roll forward around the branch. If they jump short, they will land with their front legs and swing underneath before pulling themselves up on top of the perch. This combination of adaptive planning behaviors, learning control and reactive stabilizing maneuvers helps them move quickly through the branches without falling.”

One unsuspected innovation was that during tricky jumps, squirrels would often reorient their bodies to push off a vertical surface, like in human parkour, to adjust their speed and insure a better landing. Parkour is a sport in which people leap, vault, swing or use other movements to quickly traverse obstacles without the use of equipment.

“Learning from squirrels the limitations of improvisation with a given controller architecture and compliant actuators will help engineers understand how to design a robot controller and actuators to maximize improvisational capabilities,” Dean said. “To get to that next step for more agile robots, we first have to observe and quantify the ideas of adjustment and improvisation, which this research provides.”

This research complements earlier Army-funded research at UC Berkeley that developed an agile robot, called Salto that looks like a Star Wars Imperial walker in miniature and may be able to aid in scouting and search-and-rescue operations.

In additional to the Army, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported this research.

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

Rheinmetall and Escribano Demonstrate New Modules for the Mission Master SP A-UGV

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Rheinmetall and Escribano Mechanical & Engineering (EM&E) have collaborated in recent months in order to demonstrate two new Rheinmetall Mission Master SP modules carrying EM&E sensors and weapons systems. A series of demonstrations took place at EM&E’s new facilities in San Juan del Viso in the presence of Spanish government officials, including the Army chief of staff and international delegations. A demonstration for His Majesty King Felipe VI was also held at Viator in the Province Almería in southern Spain.

The demonstrations involved two Mission Master SP Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (A-UGVs). For these activities, a Mission Master SP – Fire Support was equipped with the Escribano Guardian 2.0 Remote Weapon Station (RWS), while a Mission Master SP – Surveillance carried the Escribano OTEOS sensor package. Thanks to the mast-mounted OTEOS, the Mission Master SP – Surveillance successfully detected a threat and automatically shared its location with the Mission Master SP – Fire support, triggering a slew-to-cue. Various Mission Master control modes were showcased, including follow-me, autonomous navigation, and convoy modes.

Live firing with the Mission Master SP – Fire Support equipped with the Escribano Guardian 2.0 RWS in the Dillon Aero M134D configuration was conducted using UGV/RWS portable controllers integrated with a safety board architecture, allowing safe wireless firing. As with all Mission Master operations, targets are never engaged automatically. A human in the loop is always required for all kinetic decisions.

For Rheinmetall Canada, this series of demonstrations in Spain marks the first integration of an EM&E payload on its Mission Master SP A-UGV and its first collaboration with a Spanish company. This success underscores Rheinmetall’s mastery of system integration and the growing capabilities of its Mission Master family.

Warrior East 21 – Tomahawk Robotics

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Tomahawk Robotics displayed several technologies at Warrior East but the one that caught my eye is the Grip S20 Controller. It is based around the Samsung Galaxy S20 End User Device and offers controls for unmanned systems. This protective case also incorporates an integral USB hub.

Another item is the Mimic Spatial Controller which is a tactile trigger-style device many in EOD prefer to use. It is Intra Soldier Wireless compatible and provides haptic feedback of payload control.

Additionally, Tomahawk Robotics offers the MXC Family of Micro Datalinks which can be had as a stand-alone battery powered model or a more streamlined version which uses radio battery juice. With this datalink, the user can not only receive ISR feeds but also retransmit them to others in their network.

Units and agencies can procure Tomahawk Robotics products shown during Warrior East by contacting Atlantic Diving Supply.

Army’s GVSC, Picatinny Arsenal Test Robotic Combat Vehicle Prototype at Fort Dix

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, New Jersey– Members of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, and Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) located in Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, joined together on a range at Fort Dix June 30 to perform a live-fire test of a Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M), an experimental prototype under the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team (NGCV CFT).

The tests focused on firing the RCV-M’s XM813 main gun, as well as its M240 machine gun, from an unmanned and wirelessly-operated weapon station.

“We want to look at the integration of a turret, which was provided as government furnished equipment to the effort, onto the platform,” said Mike Mera, an engineer in the Remote Weapons Branch at Picatinny Arsenal.

The RCV-M program is a joint collaboration among the NGCV CFT, Product Manager Maneuver Combat Systems (PM MCS), Product Manager Soldier Lethality (PM SL), and Combat Capabilities Development Command. The RCV-M platform includes products from Textron, Howe and Howe Technologies, FLIR, and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA).

“We’re using high speed cameras to look at the platform, cannon, and turret dynamics,” Mera said. “We’ve got data collection systems downrange to collect the dispersion information, and we’ll evaluate both the performance and quality of the overall integration to make sure expectations are being met.”

The verification exercise ensured the stringent requirements for the turret and host platform were not only met by design, but also in reality.

“Here, we’re evaluating the armaments integration, but the overall expectation is to get these into the Soldiers’ hands and perform some experimentation as part of a regular training regimen down at Fort Hood, Texas, next summer,” Mera said.

Although this system has been in the works for approximately 18 months, this was its first live-fire test.


A Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium fires a around at a target during the vehicle’s live fire testing at Fort Dix, N.J., June 30, 2021. The testing prepares the vehicle’s systems and the engineers who design and operate it the opportunity to exercise its capabilities before the 2022 Soldier Operational Experiment at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Angelique N. Smythe/Released)

“To date, there hasn’t been any testing other than in the lab,” Mera said.

The RCV-M armament system’s control station was housed in a Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrator (MET-D). From there, crewmembers were able to move, shoot and communicate through a mixture of touchscreen panels and physical controls.

“We’ve got personnel from the Armaments Center – both government employees as well as employees of Booz Allen Hamilton,” Mera said. “The Booz Allen folks perform the energetic operations. They’re our gunners and loaders. The government personnel serve in the capacity of the officer in charge of the range – that’s myself, and the range safety officer, as well as other support. We’ve also got folks from the Ground Vehicle Systems Center. They’re supporting the platform, monitoring the overall test, providing a lot of logistic support.”

Several GVSC and Armaments Center officials also visited the range to observe the demonstration, such as Michael Cadieux, director of GVSC, and Mark Ford, Director of the DEVCOM Armaments Center Weapon Systems and Technology Directorate, among others.

Cristian Bara, a GVSC test engineer for the RCV-M and MET-D, said he also came from Michigan to observe how the guns performed from the test plan perspective and to ensure the quality of the systems were where they needed to be.

“These are all prototypes,” Bara said. “This is the first system that we’ve developed where we have a gun of this caliber mounted on the robot, a completely unmanned robot, and that is also controlled from a different location or within the manned combat vehicle; it’s certainly unique.”

The functional check ensures the MET-D and RCV systems communicate properly, messages and data are received on both ends, and the hardware and software also perform as intended.

“The overall goal is to ensure that the systems, technologies and capabilities work as we design them and are being used as intended,” Bara said. “We want to make sure we deliver a solid product to Soldiers because we’re trying to save lives.”

Another observer from Detroit Arsenal, Col. Jeffrey Jurand, Project Manager, Maneuver Combat Systems at PEO Ground Combat Systems, said a robotic platform allows the ability to fight wars without risking the lives of Soldiers.


Engineers and program officers from the U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center and DEVCOM Armaments Center operate a robotic vehicle crew station from inside a Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrator vehicle at Fort Dix, N.J., June 30, 2021. The crew station allows Soldiers to provide waypoints or remotely operate Robotic Combat Vehicles from a distance. (U.S. Army Photo by Angelique N. Smythe/Released)

“We’re taking humans out of harm’s way,” he said. “Although it’s something we’d want to avoid, if the vehicle were to be lost, we’re not losing Soldiers. We can build new vehicles.”

The RCV-M live-fire demonstration took place at Fort Dix on ranges formerly used to train Abrams and Bradley crews in gunnery from manned combat vehicles.

“It is fitting this range is now being used to test and develop the robots that will one day fight alongside them,” said Mera.

“We wanted to do it at Camp Grayling [Michigan] because it’s closer to home, but there are a lot of active units training out there,” Bara said. “Fort Dix was available, and also Picatinny is close. Picatinny is our partner in weapons integration.”

Fort Dix is the common name for the Army Support Activity located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. It is located less than two hours south of Picatinny Arsenal. The partnership between the two installations allowed for flexibility in scheduling the range for testing of experimental systems in relevant environmental and training conditions.

By Angelique N. Smythe, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs

Rheinmetall’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle Concept Down-selected for U.S. Army’s program – Team of Industry-leading Experts to Digitally Design Advanced OMFV

Monday, July 26th, 2021

The U.S. Army has awarded American Rheinmetall Vehicles – a Sterling Heights, MI, U.S. subsidiary of leading defense industry giant Rheinmetall – a develop¬mental contract for the Phase 2 Digital Design of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) program. American Rheinmetall Vehicles will execute Phase 2 with its teammates, a group of unsurpassed defense industry companies, including Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies, Textron Systems and Allison Transmission.

The U.S. Army’s OMFV program is a ground-modernization effort to replace nearly 3,800 Bradley Fighting Vehicles among the U.S. Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Teams.

“This is a great win for American Rhein¬metall Vehicles and Team Lynx as a whole,” said Matt Warnick, Managing Director of American Rheinmetall Vehicles. “With this contract award, we take another important step forward in bringing the kind of next-generation technology solution, partnership and industrial capability the U.S. Army deserves and that Team Lynx is so well prepared to deliver for the OMFV program.”

Team Lynx will work with the U.S. Army on the digitally engineered design and development of the team’s OMFV concept using Rheinmetall’s proven Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) as the point of departure for the design. The team’s solution will provide the U.S. Army with a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle featuring a game-changing platform with a modular open systems architecture. This will enable rapid insertion of new capabilities as they become available, guaranteeing overmatch today and overmatch tomorrow.

Variants of American Rheinmetall Vehicle’s Lynx KF41 IFV are advancing in multiple countries around the world. The Hungarian Army became the launch customer in 2020 with an order for 218 locally produced vehicles. In Australia, for the Land 400 Phase 3 program, Rheinmetall was down selected along with one other combat vehicle manufacturer for a risk reduction test phase that involves extensive vehicle testing comprised of field trials, survivability and mobility testing. The KF41 performed to a high standard.

The Digital Design Phase kicks off the OMFV program and continues through early 2023, laying the foundation for future development and production phases. Team Lynx is developing industrialization plans to fully deliver the OMFV as a Made in the USA, next-generation vehicle. The team will grow U.S. Defense manufacturing capacity and introduce advanced manufacturing capabilities. Competition for Phase 3 (Detailed Design) is anticipated to start in 2023, followed by Phase 4 (Prototype Build and Test), which results in government testing in early 2026.

“We are incredibly proud at American Rheinmetall of the commitment we are making to the US Army, to Soldiers and to advanced American technology, design and production,” said Stephen Hedger, CEO at American Rheinmetall Defense, the U.S. parent headquarters for Rheinmetall.