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Battlefield Robotics: A New "Leash" on Unmanned Life

September 13, 2010
By Beverly Schaeffer

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.

Lockheed Martin to Test Robotic Exoskeleton for Soldiers

July 14, 2010
By George Seffers

Lockheed Martin has received a $1.1 million contract from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center for test and evaluation of its next-generation HULC, an advanced robotic exoskeleton, designed to augment soldiers' strength and endurance, as well as reduce load carriage injuries. Under this contract, the Army will test Lockheed's advanced ruggedized HULC design, which includes optimized control software, extended battery life and human factors improvements for quicker and easier sizing to each user.

Airborne Robot Command and Control

April 21, 2009

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. The aircraft demonstrated extended sensing; persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and the transmission of real-time video imagery of ground targets.

From Beanbags to Bomblets

August 4, 2008
By H. Mosher

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.
As currently designed, MAARS works at a range of over half a mile from the human controller. Features include loudspeakers, a green pulsing laser and a two-way communications system. MAARS also can be used to launch smoke, star clusters and pepper spray as well as engage the enemy with an M240B machine gun firing 7.62-millimeter ammunition.

MAARS is a tracked vehicle that can traverse a variety of terrains, including stairs, but it also can be outfitted with wheels to increase travel speed while reducing noise. The turret also can hold a drop-in manipulator arm as well as several types of weapons and sensor packages.

Tiny Machine Packs Big Punch

March 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

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.

Military Considers the Human Factor in Independent Robots

March 2008
By Rita Boland

Researchers are conducting cutting-edge investigations in the area of unmanned systems. The efforts aim to change how humans operate the vehicles by reducing the number of personnel hours and dedicated resources necessary to execute the systems. The projects also could both improve how systems interact with one another and increase their autonomy.

Center Builds Robots With More Bang for the Buck

March 2008
By Rita Boland

As the demand for robotics expands in both the commercial and public sectors, developers at a university institute are working to move relevant technology into the marketplace rapidly. Engineers are creating smarter systems that are more autonomous and that have applications ranging from agriculture to combat. Current programs are spawning new ideas, and program officials are seeking to demonstrate technology to funding authorities quickly to determine the best path forward early in the development cycle.

U.S. Robots Surge Onto the Battlefield

March 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

Unmanned ground systems have become a vital tool for warfighters operating in Southwest Asia. Initially deploying a handful of machines, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps now deploy thousands of robots into the theater. Ranging from tiny scouts designed to be thrown into windows to remote control mine clearance vehicles, these platforms have saved many lives by replacing soldiers in dangerous jobs, including ordnance disposal and reconnaissance.

Perception Guides the Future of Automatons

May 2004
By Robert K. Ackerman

The key to attaining the long-sought goal of fully autonomous unmanned ground vehicles may lie in their ability to recognize reality. Scientists pursuing the development of truly independent robotic vehicles are finding that perception is the key hurdle they must overcome. The development of these vehicles hinges on solving problems relating to perception and its data processing.

Racing Toward Robotics

May 2004
By Maryann Lawlor

After months of preparation, autonomous vehicles hit the road in the California desert to elevate the art of robotics and explore new capabilities for the military. Teams of robotics experts from across the United States brought their unmanned vehicles to Barstow, California, to compete in the U.S. Defense Department's first $1 million Grand Challenge. Although no entry crossed the finish line, the real winner is likely to be the warfighter. Military experts will sift through thousands of lessons learned and move forward on bringing autonomous vehicles to the battlefield.


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