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Robotics

Army Tests Ground Robots

January 1, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Army is looking at the current state of the art in ground robots to revise its requirements for a future unmanned squad support platform. A number of robots were recently evaluated by the service to collect data on their ability to carry supplies, follow infantry over rough terrain and fire weapons in a tactical environment. Army officials say the results of this demonstration will help refine the service’s operational needs and goals before the Army considers launching a procurement program.

Navy Artificial Intelligence Aids Actionable Intelligence

December 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

To ease the load on weary warfighters inundated with too much information, U.S. Navy scientists are turning to artificial intelligence and cognitive reasoning technologies. Solutions that incorporate these capabilities could fill a broad array of roles, such as sounding the alarm when warfighters are about to make mistakes.

Littoral 
Combat Ship 
Loaded With 
Unmanned
 Systems

December 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Navy intends to deploy an arsenal of airborne, surface and underwater unmanned systems for its new shallow-water combat ship. The array of unmanned systems will extend the ship’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, enhancing awareness of enemy activities, and will reduce the number of sailors deployed to minefields, saving lives.

Robots Cubed

October 7, 2013

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created prototypes of cube-shaped robots the size of a child’s building block, which can climb over and around one another, leap through the air, roll across the ground and move while suspended upside down from metallic surfaces.

Boston Dynamics Releases WildCat Robot Video

October 4, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Boston Dynamics has used its YouTube to unveil its latest creation, WildCat, which is capable of walking, running and bounding.

Innovation Associates Wins Pharmaceutical Robotic Dispenser Contract

September 23, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Innovation Associates, Johnson City, N.Y., has been awarded a maximum $48,750,000 fixed-price with an economic-price-adjustment contract for pharmacy automation systems to include robotic dispensers, cabinets, workstations, hardware, and software. This is a five-year base contract with no option year periods. Using military services are the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM2D1-13-D-8302).

Artificial Fish Dives Into Unknown Waters

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Domestic security officials aim to replace human divers with an autonomous underwater vehicle whose design is derived from nature: the tuna, one of the fastest and most maneuverable fish in the sea. The vehicle would be used primarily to inspect ship hulls for contraband, saving divers from hazardous trips into hard-to-reach areas below the waterline where oil and other toxic chemicals are part of the mix. Designers also envision the tuna-modeled robot could also be used for search and rescue missions.

The Biomimetic In-Oil Swimmer (BIOSwimmer) is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) being developed by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group, in Waltham, Massachusetts, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This tuna look-alike can be operated either by remote control with a tethered cable or pre-programmed to operate autonomously, according to David Taylor, specialist, cargo security, Border and Maritime Security Division, Science and Technology Directorate, DHS, and program manager for the BIOSwimmer program.

“It was originally designed as a vehicle that could go inside cargo tanks and look in oil cargos for contraband,” he explains. Based on subsequent feedback from DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field officers, the BIOSwimmer’s design has been modified to function primarily as an AUV that examines ship hulls.

Software Increases 
Unmanned Craft Survivability

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers and Robert K. Ackerman

 

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new control software to reduce the vulnerability of unmanned systems to cyber attack. This effort is relying on new methods of software development that would eliminate many of the problems inherent in generating high-assurance software.

Unmanned vehicles suffer from the same vulnerabilities as other networked information systems. But, in addition to their data being co-opted, unmanned systems can be purloined if adversaries seize control of them. This problem also applies to human-crewed systems with computer-controlled components.

If the research program is successful, then unmanned vehicles will be less likely to be taken over by an enemy. Warfighters could trust that the unmanned vehicle on which they are relying will not abandon its mission or become a digital turncoat.

This security would extend to other vulnerable systems as well. Networked platforms and entities ranging from automobiles to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems could benefit from the research. The vulnerability of SCADA systems is well-established, but only recently has research shown that automobiles can be co-opted through their computer-controlled systems. The program’s goal is to produce high-assurance software for military unmanned vehicles and then enable its transfer to industry for commercial uses.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program is known as High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS. Kathleen Fisher, HACMS program manager, says the program is aiming to produce software that is “functionally correct and satisfying safety and security policies.

“It’s not just that you’re proving the absence of a particular bad property from the security perspective,” she explains. “You’re actually positively proving that the software has the correct behavior.”

Unmanned Submersibles Competition Challenges Students

July 18, 2013

The Office of Naval Research and the AUVSI Foundation are co-sponsoring an autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) competition, which supports interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education while increasing the pool of AUV ideas. The 16th International RoboSub Competition, titled “License to Dive,” will challenge university and high school student teams to bump buoys, park, fire foam torpedoes through a hexagonal cutout, deposit two markers into bins while submerged, and deliver two PVS mock pizza boxes to a specified location. They will be judged based on points awarded for how well their AUV completed the tasks. Teams also must create websites and write journal papers that outline their work.

Cash prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges; the 2012 competition first through third place winning teams took home $8,000, $4,000 and $3,000, respectively.

A real-time webcast of the 2013 RoboSub finals will begin on July 28 at 1 p.m. PDT.

Data Collectors Increase Intelligence

June 27, 2013

Robots slightly shorter than the average human may be able to connect portions of the offline world to the online world digitally. Knightscope Incorporated will soon be testing the K5 and K10 robots, which can autonomously prowl through large areas and small spaces, collecting significant amounts of data from their immediate surroundings. Applications include perimeter surveillance of military bases and inspection of power plants.

An integrated machine operating system autonomously guides each robot through defined boundary conditions; the sensor operating system collects data from the immediate surroundings. During beta testing scheduled for the end of this year, this data will be fed into the company’s network operations center. Use of the robots will be offered to customers through a machine-as-a-service subscription business model.

The K5 and K10 feature omnidirectional cameras, microphones, optical character recognition, thermal imaging and air quality detection.

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