Earthbound technologies and computer programming that make most popular video games possible are driving development of the remote-controlled robots now in use by NASA in the unmanned exploration of Mars and the solar system. Those improvements in both hardware and software also spur innovation in the next generation of robots envisioned for use by government and industry. That is important because NASA recently has proposed a new, multiyear program of sending robot explorers to Mars, culminating in the launch of another large scientific rover in the year 2020.
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University have discovered methods to control folding pathways and enable sequential folding on a millimeter scale using a low-intensity laser beam. Lasers at a low intensity worked as a trigger for tagging applications. Developers are fabricating sheets of millimeter-size structures that serve as battery-free wireless actuators that fold when exposed to a laser operating at eye-safe infrared wavelengths.
A new facility allows scientists to test innovations for autonomous and unmanned systems.
A new manmade realm allows robots to learn how to scale sheer cliff walls, go from the ocean to the beach or cross hot, burning desert sands. In this environment, researchers can examine the machines’ every move and how they interact with human warfighters. And one day, these robots also may help save sailors’ lives at sea.
The next five years will be as exciting as the last decade--but in a different way.
Unmanned vehicles will undergo an array of changes in the coming years brought about by the war in Afghanistan winding down, budgets tightening and the national strategy shifting toward the Asia-Pacific region. Adjustments may include the retirement of some unmanned air systems, a stronger focus on refining existing unmanned planes rather than fielding new ones and increased research and development of land and maritime technologies.
A new robotic hand, developed by Sandia National Laboratories, mimics the capabilities of a human hand and could help disarm improvised explosive devices.
Boston Dynamics Incorporated, Waltham, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $10,882,438 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The contractor will develop and build a set of identical humanoid robot systems for use by performers in both phases of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge Program. This effort will develop robotic platforms consisting of two legs, a torso, on board computing, two arms with hands, and a sensor head.
U.S. Army researchers have enhanced the Talon robot with an array of technologies to make the system more autonomous. Upgrades include inertial navigation and Global Positioning System technologies, a 306-degree camera system and laser radar, upgraded power distribution boards, an e-stop system, Ethernet radios, control computers and software for running the system.
Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory have discovered methods to make teensy robots perform an array of tasks on command.
Three U.S. Army units are preparing to go to war with robots armed, for now, with nonlethal weapons.
Injured warfighters, formerly relegated to desk jobs or early retirement, now may have a new lease on military life. Advanced prosthetics give these brave troops the option of returning to active service-a nearly foreign concept in previous wars.
NASA has signed a contract modification increasing the not-to-exceed value of a support contract with L-3 Services of Fairfax, Virginia, by $49 million, bringing the total value of the contract to $98 million. The contract provides simulation and software technology support to Johnson Space Center's Software, Robotics and Simulation Division in the fields of design, development, testing and operations of intelligent systems, robotic systems, spacecraft flight software systems and real-time simulation systems.
NASA has awarded a sole-source contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Systems Engineering for In-Space Servicing. This 18-month contract has a value of $31 million. Lockheed Martin will provide systems and discipline engineering support to develop and execute two demonstrations to test and verify new robotic servicing capabilities using the Dextre robot aboard the International Space Station.
Alion Science and Technology has recently been awarded a $1 million contract to lead a modeling and simulation research effort that could help enhance the field of prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers. The 18-month, U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity will explore affordable and improved approaches in bringing robotic control technology to the field of prosthetic limbs.
The notion of robots as trusted companions on the battlefield is no longer limited to the scope of science fiction or TV adventure. With the U.S. Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance and its members forging ahead on autonomous technologies, warfighters may just very well have their own "Lassie" to save the day. What more can be done to enhance robotic artificial intelligence to benefit the troops? Share you ideas here.
The Boeing Company and the Australian government demonstrated the ability to simultaneously command and control three robot aircraft from an airborne command platform. The demonstration featured three ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) controlled from a Royal Australian Air Force Wedgetail 737 airborne early warning and control aircraft. Operating 120 miles from the Wedgetail, the ScanEagles were assigned tasks such as area search, reconnaissance, point surveillance and targeting.
U.S. military ground troops have received their first fully modular ground robot system that can launch a variety of munitions, from 40-millimeter beanbags to 40-millimeter high-explosive grenades. The Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) features a unibody chassis with a plug-and-play design, so warfighters will be able to expand its capabilities as new accessories and attachments become available.
A lightweight battlefield robot may soon provide Israeli army units with extra eyes, ears and firepower. Intended to support forces at the company and platoon levels, the robot can be carried into action by one soldier and configured in the field for a variety of missions.