Robotics

April 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
DARPA’s Squad X program has taught researchers that artificial intelligence offers advantages not related to faster decision-making, and that electronic warfare systems can behave smartly without being equipped with artificial intelligence.  DARPA

Researchers have learned some surprising lessons from the technologies developed under the Defense Department’s Squad X program, which will end this year. For example, artificial intelligence may not help warfighters make faster decisions, but it does provide a planning advantage over adversaries. Furthermore, when it comes to detecting and electronically attacking enemy signals, systems can make smart decisions without artificial intelligence.

December 18, 2020
By George I. Seffers
A soldier guides an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during an exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, in August 2018. On December 18, 2020, Army officials released a request for proposals for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle.   Credit: U.S. Army photo

Today, the U.S. Army issued the final request for proposals for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) concept design phase. The request for proposals asks for a common modular open architecture that will allow the rapid insertion of new software capabilities as they become available.

December 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
While human cyborgs may still be the stuff of science fiction, the science may be a little closer to reality following breakthroughs in materials used for neural links and other implants that offer a wide array of benefits, including potential medical advances. Credit: Ociacia/Shutterstock

Electronic implants in the brain or other parts of the body may be more efficient and effective due to a recent breakthrough by researchers at the University of Delaware. The advance potentially offers a wide array of biotechnology benefits and could also allow humans to control unmanned vehicles and other technologies with the brain.

September 24, 2020
By George I. Seffers
An Area-I Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System, or ALTIUS, is launched from a UH-60 Black Hawk at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, March 4 where the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center led a demonstration that highlighted the forward air launch of the ALTIUS. Courtesy photo provided by Yuma Proving Ground

Artificial intelligence technology tested during the Army’s Project Convergence exercise largely met expectations and will help transform the way the Army fights in the future, officials say.

August 7, 2020
By George I. Seffers
The Ripsaw M5 robotic combat vehicle developed by a team made up ofTextron, Howe & Howe, and FLIR Systems, is one of two robotic systems being developed for the Army's manned-unmanned teaming concept.  The other is the a light robotic vehicle being developed by QinetiQ and Pratt and Miller. The service is conducting a series of experiments to test the concept using surrogate vehicles while the robotic systems are in development. Photo courtesy of Textron

Manned-unmanned teaming technologies being assessed in a weeks-long experiment are receiving mostly positive reviews from Army officials and non-commissioned officers.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team and Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center are conducting soldier operational experiments at Ft. Carson, Colorado, from June 15 through August 14. The goal is to observe, collect and analyze feedback from soldiers to assess the feasibility of integrating unmanned vehicles into ground combat formations.

July 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
The Lightweight Surface Manipulator System (LSMS), a surface version of TALISMAN, would help offload lunar landers and construct facilities on the Moon.  NASA

Robots have led the way for human space exploration, and NASA is counting on them to serve as partners in the next round of endeavors. The space agency is teaming with industry on new technologies that will develop innovative robotic systems and offer capabilities that are key to expanding the reach of humans beyond Earth.

July 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
In the future, just watching human behavior may be enough for robots to learn to perform some duties.  releon8211/Shutterstock

Robots may one day learn to perform complex tasks simply by watching humans accomplish those tasks. That ability will allow people without programming skills to teach artificial intelligence systems to conduct certain functions or missions.

Teaching artificial intelligence systems or robots usually requires software engineers. Those programmers normally interview domain experts on what they need the machines to do and then translate that information into programming language, explains Ankit Shah, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) and the Interactive Robotics Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
NASA is embracing a slightly different risk profile for its MoonRanger robot that will explore ice fields on the lunar south pole.  NASA

The current development of particular robots for NASA represents a methodical shift in how some Lunar or Martian vehicles are designed and how the related components or systems are included to support vehicle operation. Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic are working on a lunar robot for NASA’s Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload program, or LSITP, that is small, fast, solar-powered and will not be teleoperated nor radiation-hardened, which is quite a change from more risk-adverse prior methods.

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Collaborative 3D digital games are a great platform for developing human-non human teaming capabilities, says Julie Marble, senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  JHU APL

Scientists conducting basic research at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are examining how to build characteristics into a robotic system to improve human-nonhuman teaming. While artificial intelligence and machine learning applications can be trained to perform a task, those kinds of systems are not yet able to collaborate with humans and cannot anticipate human intent or what they will do.

July 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
A U.S. Army soldier patrols an urban area in this artist’s concept showing aerial and ground unmanned vehicles supporting his mission as a team. The Army Research Laboratory has established a real-world testbed at Graces Quarters, Maryland, in which autonomous vehicles can be put through their paces in woods, fields, marshes and urban areas to explore similar scenarios.  ARL image

Robots trying out to become part of the U.S. Army’s battlefield force now have their own real-world testbed built atop what used to be a nerve gas testing site. The Army Research Laboratory has built the Robotics Research Collaboration Campus, or R2C2, in Graces Quarters at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Formerly a superfund site, the area now is sprouting buildings amid mixed wooded and grassy terrain typical of what the Army may find on future battlefields.

July 1, 2020
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

In 1991, as part of an education program I was taking, I had an opportunity to visit several factories that were using robotics. That included visits to an automobile assembly factory in Kentucky and a Hitachi assembly plant in Japan. I was impressed with the precision and efficiency of the robots I saw in those plants. At the time, factory robots performed mostly routine, repetitive or dangerous tasks. They saved time and money, provided precision assembly and improved productivity, in part by reducing human errors. They precisely drilled every hole for every rivet.

June 10, 2020
By George I. Seffers
During a webinar sponsored by the Association of the United States Army, Gen. John Murray, USA, commander, Army Futures Command, updated the audience on the service’s modernization efforts. Credit: Graphic illustration of concept for Smart Targeting Environment for Lower Level Assets (U.S. Army CCDC C5ISR graphic illustration/Jamie Lear)

Although the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network has faced delays for a variety of reasons, the two-channel manpack radio will undergo operational testing this fall, according to Gen. John Murray, USA, commander, Army Futures Command.

May 29, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
For the U.S. Army to develop truly autonomous driverless vehicles, it must realize advances being pursued by the Army Research Laboratory. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is handing its robotics research in adaptive autonomy to eight partners in academia and industry in what laboratory officials describe as a sprint to develop new capabilities. The Army has awarded $2.9 million in first-year funding as part of its Scalable, Adaptive and Resilient Autonomy (SARA) program to develop methods by which future Army robots can autonomously navigate rough terrain and avoid being blocked or upended by obstacles.

April 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
Researchers generated a 3D surface using an artificial intelligence algorithm. The ribs in the different layers of the lattice are programmed to grow and shrink in response to a change in temperature, mapping the facial features of mathematician and scientist Carl Friedrich Gauss.  Illustration combines an image by Lori Sanders/Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science with a portrait of Carl Friedrich Gauss painted by Christian Albrecht Jensen in 1840. Edited by Chris D’Elia

Researchers recently announced that they can use a groundbreaking 4D-printing process to create material capable of morphing into the likeness of a human face, the most complex shape-shifting structure ever. The research may one day lead to advances in dynamic communications, soft electronics, smart fabrics, tissue engineering for medical purposes, robotics and an array of commercial applications.

January 16, 2020
 
The Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrator manned vehicle can operate two unmanned platforms to make contact with the enemy before soldiers do, while achieving overmatch against future operating environment threats. The Army’s vision includes three robotic vehicle variants—light, medium and large, but service officials have decided for now to cancel the acquisition of a medium variant. U.S. Army photo by Jerome Aliotta/Released 

The U.S. Army announced today that it has canceled the solicitation for the Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) Rapid Prototyping phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV). Based on feedback and proposals received from industry, the Army has determined it is necessary to revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy and schedule before moving forward. 

"We remain committed to the OMFV program as it is our second-highest modernization priority, and the need for this ground combat vehicle capability is real. It is imperative we get it right for our soldiers," Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, says in a written announcement. 

January 9, 2020
 
Textron describes its Ripsaw M5 Robotic Combat Vehicle as providing speed, mobility and unmanned capability. The company has been selected to provide four medium robotic vehicles to the U.S. Army. QinetiQ North America will be awarded a contract for four light ground robots. Photo courtesy of Textron

The U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the U.S. Army Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team intends to award an other transaction agreement to QinetiQ North America to build four light and to Textron to build four medium Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs).

December 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

Advances in sensor mechanics and the advent of artificial intelligence have cleared the way for robots to play an increasingly greater role in military operations. Their growing versatility allows them to serve multiple functions in the military, from basic assistance to assumption of full combat roles. They can inter alia, lighten a warfighter’s load, provide search and rescue capabilities, perform surveillance missions, engage in casual evacuation, provide resupply and conduct hazardous route reconnaissance. Within 10 years, we may see them driving supply vehicles in convoys.

October 18, 2019
By Robert K. Ackerman
This early version of the ARL RCTA's LLAMA robot demonstrated how a quadruped can ascertain obstacles and avoid them. An improved version features better sensors, and future iterations will give it more speed and greater payload.

Autonomous vehicles that can clear debris from roads, move containers after determining their contents and scuttle across rough terrain amid changing environments have emerged as the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) marked 10 years of collaborative research with industry and academia. The goals reached in the capstone of the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA) were presented at the Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Pittsburgh, as the ARL demonstrated several robots designed around Army battlefield needs.

October 4, 2019
Posted by George I. Seffers
A new policy approved by the secretary of the Army requires the use of advanced manufacturing techniques, which included 3D printing, for new and existing systems. Credit: Pixabay/mebner1

Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy has approved a new policy on advanced manufacturing designed to help the Army secure a competitive edge against near-peer adversaries.

September 1, 2019
By George I. Seffers
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program is developing technology that improves the ability to control machines using only the brain—without surgical implants. Credit: Fer Gregory, Shutterstock

In four years, researchers funded by the U.S. military may develop a working prototype of a system that allows for a nonsurgical interface between the human brain and technology. Such a system could improve brain control of unmanned vehicles, robots, cybersecurity systems and mechanical prosthetics while also improving the interface between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) agents.

July 1, 2019
By George I. Seffers
Using traditional processes for manufacturing silicon chips, researchers can fabricate 1 million nanosized robots on a single chip. The robots may one day crawl around inside the body to collect data on the brain or the spinal column. Shutterstock/solarseven

Nanosized robots capable of crawling around on a person’s brain or underneath the skin may sound like a nightmare to some, but researchers suggest the mini machines could serve medical purposes such as gathering data on the brain or the spinal column.

May 23, 2019
 

According to an announcement from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Pitt), the Department of Defense has selected Pitt and neighboring Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create an autonomous trauma care system for injured soldiers. Under the so-called TRAuma Care In a Rucksack program or TRACIR, the universities will work to develop artificial intelligence (AI) platforms that enable medical interventions.

March 4, 2019
By George I. Seffers
The Defense Advanced Research Agency’s Artificial Intelligence Colloquium being held this week in Alexandria, Virginia, will include a panel discussion on the ethics issues surrounding the use of artificial intelligence. Credit: Shutterstock

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) officials will include a panel discussion on ethics and legal issues at the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Colloquium being held March 6-7 in Alexandria, Virginia.

“We’re looking at the ethical, legal and social implications of our technologies, particularly as they become powerful and democratized in a way,” reveals John Everett, deputy director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office.

March 1, 2019
By George I. Seffers
Many tasks that are simple for humans to learn are much more complicated for robots. Illustration from Shutterstock images

Amidst a great deal of hype, hope and even apprehension regarding artificial intelligence (AI), experts at the U.S. Defense Department’s premier research and development organization intend to help smart machines reach their full potential.

January 7, 2019
 

Endeavor Robotics Inc., Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was awarded a $32,400,000 firm-fixed-price contract for reset, sustainment, maintenance, and recap parts for Robot Logistics Support Center technicians to support the overall sustainment actions of the entire Endeavor family of small, medium, and large robots. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of January 2, 2024. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Warren, Michigan, is the contracting activity (W56HZV-19-D-0031).

December 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL’s) development of robotics technology includes the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or ODSUAS, which are 3D-printed. Soldiers would input requirements into mission planning software that knows the optimal configuration for an aerial vehicle, and it would be printed and delivered within 24 hours. ARL research aims to stair-step technologies that ultimately turn robots into teammates for battlefield warfighters.  Credit: ARL

Robots that will equip the future U.S. Army will progress through an academic type of development that ultimately will have them graduate with full autonomy as equal partners with soldiers on the battlefield, if the Army Research Laboratory has its way. This learning regimen will allow them to grow into their roles as they mature from teleoperated machines to guided apprentices on their way to fully skilled battlefield operators that are teammates with warfighters.

December 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
A smart skin technology for robots or prosthetics developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington is undergoing testing with three companies and could soon be ready for fielding.  Courtesy University of Texas at Arlington

A research team at the University of Texas at Arlington may one day cover robots and prosthetic devices with nanotechnology skin to provide them with a sense of touch far superior to humans.

A sense of touch could allow for greater precision and control. A robot needs to know, for example, how much pressure to apply when picking up an elderly patient from a bed, an airplane engine from a factory floor, or a glass of champagne from a tabletop.

December 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
Atoms are the building blocks for molecules. Scientists theorize that someday robots made of atoms may build a wide range of products at the molecular level.  Anusom Nakdee/Shutterstock

In the decades to come, the U.S. military may manufacture combat parts and supplies on the battlefield using robots made of molecules all working together as part of a molecular factory. The nanoscale factories could revolutionize military logistics by eliminating the need to transport or store parts and supplies for every possible contingency. The same technology may prove useful for tying together strands of molecules for superstrong, lightweight armor.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV) is a versatile, fully autonomous ground vehicle designed to provide tactical-scale infantry support at the platoon level.  U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab

The novelty of a robot joining warfighters on the battlefield has worn off, and the U.S. Marines are settling in to make their use of autonomous systems more effective. The service cannot afford to have robots that hinder operations, an expert says.

The Science and Technology Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is considering robotic systems that lighten cognitive or physical burdens for Marines. Researchers are advancing robotic or autonomous machines not just for the infantry but for medical and logistics units as well.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) work on adjusting how artificial neural networks learn aims to improve the manipulation capabilities of robots.  ktsdesign/Shutterstock

YouTube videos of robots running and jumping can be pretty persuasive as to what autonomous technologies can do. However, there is a large gap between robots’ locomotion and their ability to handle and move objects in their environment. Programs at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are examining how to close this capability gap and improve the functionality of robots and other autonomous systems.

Autonomous capabilities have advanced, especially in the last 10 years, but robots still have a hard time performing ad hoc motions, particularly manipulative movements using a robotic arm or hand, says Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) roboticist Glen Henshaw.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The NRL is looking for a transition partner for MERLIN that wants to develop and possibly field small quadruped robots.  NRL

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) work on its Meso-scale Robotic Locomotion Initiative, known as MERLIN, is advancing, reports NRL roboticist Glen Henshaw. The shoebox-size quadruped robot, meant to weigh in at 10 kilograms (22 pounds), features hydraulic-based legs for running, jumping or climbing—to navigate environments too complicated for tracked or wheeled robots.

And after several years of development, MERLIN is almost walking, Henshaw says.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
With fewer techniques to map and maneuver than aerial robots, underwater robots have to rely on advanced sonar sensors and other tools, such as multibeam sonar processing and virtual occupancy grid mapping, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Michael Kaess.  Carnegie Mellon University/Michael Henninger

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh are examining how to create systems that can perform autonomously underwater and provide a clearer view of the subsurface environment. Such capabilities offer important applications to the U.S. services, the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines Corps, as well as to the commercial shipping industry for ship and harbor inspections, among other activities.

December 1, 2018
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

The past three decades have seen technologies rapidly transform the face of society. Robots, coupled with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other developing capabilities such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are among the latest technologies to offer the promise of labor-saving capabilities, improved efficiency in manufacturing, better precision in the medical field and enhanced capabilities in national security, to name just a few applications.

November 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
The HoneyBot, a robotic system acting as a honeypot to lure hackers, could be used to protect critical infrastructure facilities. Credit: Rob Felt

In the coming months, researchers from Georgia Tech will reveal the results of testing on a robot called the HoneyBot, designed to help detect, monitor, misdirect or even identify illegal network intruders. The device is built to attract cyber criminals targeting factories or other critical infrastructure facilities, and the underlying technology can be adapted to other types of systems, including the electric grid.

The HoneyBot represents a convergence of robotics with the cyber realm. The diminutive robot on four wheels essentially acts as a honeypot, or a decoy to lure criminal hackers and keep them busy long enough for cybersecurity experts to learn more about them, which ultimately could unmask the hackers.

October 3, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s benchmarks are helping public safety officials by providing clear rules for evaluating how well robots perform tasks. Photo credit: DHS S&T

Over the last decade, emergency responders have increasingly relied on robots to assist with public safety functions that may be too dangerous for humans. Autonomous systems can perform search and rescue tasks, provide decision support, transport medical supplies, extinguish fires, map disaster areas or accomplish other important rescue functions.

August 7, 2018
Posted by George I. Seffers
A new fabrication process enables the creation of soft robots at the millimeter scale with features on the micrometer scale as shown here with the example of a soft robotic spider with moving body parts and colored eyes and abdomens. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Researchers have developed an integrated fabrication process that for the very first time enables the design of soft robots on the millimeter scale with micrometer-scale features. To demonstrate the capabilities of their new technology, they created a robotic soft spider from a single elastic material with body-shaping, motion and color features.

The research team members are from Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Boston University. The study is published in Advanced Materials.

February 16, 2018
Posted by Maryann Lawlor
Northrop Grumman’s team is launching an open architecture testbed and seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tacking on the platform as part of DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics program.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving into the first development phase of its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, a capability that will empower dismounted troops to control scores of unmanned air and ground vehicles simultaneously. Once fully evolved, the technology will provide small-unit infantry forces with small, unmanned aircraft and ground systems to support diverse missions in urban areas. The program also seeks to integrate modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming.

February 1, 2018
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
As part of the ‘ Wingman’ program, the U.S. Army is developing the Autonomous Remote Engagement System, which is mounted on the Picatinny Lightweight Remote Weapon System and coupled with an M240B machine gun. The system will employ both vision-based automatic target detection and user-specified target selection to reduce the time needed for target identification. Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo.

The Army is pairing traditional weapons and vehicles with autonomous systems, an effort they characterize as the first step toward weaponized robotics. The goal is to be able to use robotic vehicles to leverage capabilities during enemy stand-offs.

Dubbed the ‘Wingman’ Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program or JCTD, the program already has seen success with Army engineers at the Detroit Arsenal, autonomously piloting a revamped Humvee that can accurately hit targets with a mounted 7.62 milometer weapon system, according to Sean Kimmons of the Army News Service.

December 7, 2017
 
The U.S. Army conducts a demonstration of robotic and autonomous systems at Fort Benning, Georgia. Service officials want to design a Remote Combat Vehicle more lethal and maneuverable than an Abrams tank. Photo credit: Patrick A. Albright

Within five years, the Army would like to start testing remote combat vehicle (RCV) prototypes that are as light and as fast as a Stryker but provide the same level of firepower as an M-1 Abrams tank, according to a service press release.

While the holy grail is the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV), the Army thinks it can more quickly field a limited number of RCVs, and importantly, the results of that testing could help inform the requirements for the NGCV, which is slated for fielding in 2035.

September 20, 2017
By Bob Gourley and Jane Melia
U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientists have demonstrated they can 3-D print drones tailored for specific missions. As unmanned systems proliferate on the battlefield, the military may need to consider a new law of robotics regarding cybersecurity. U.S. Army photo by Angie DePuydt

Science fiction fans recognize Asimov’s prescient thoughts on robot programming, captured in his three laws of robotics. In Asimov’s sci-fi world, robots were all programmed to protect their humans (the first law), to obey their humans (the second law) and to protect themselves (the third law). These laws laid the foundation for many fantastic, futuristic stories and have long provided actionable concepts for today’s robots, including those we launch over our modern battlefields. As the stories advanced, he later added another law, called the “zeroth” law, which had priority over all the others, “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”

September 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers
Benji Maruyama, a senior materials research engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) Functional Materials Division, stands by the AFRL’s Autonomous Research System (ARES), which uses artificial intelligence to design, execute and analyze experiments at a pace much faster than traditional scientific research methods.

The U.S. Air Force’s most prolific scientist likely will never wear a lab coat, but it can perform experiments 100 times faster than its human counterparts. The robo-researcher may one day help spark explosive growth in scientific knowledge.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) Autonomous Research System (ARES) does not fit the conventional idea of a robotic system. It is not humanoid. It does not move freely across the ground or fly through the air. But in a single day, it can autonomously execute 100 experiments, compared with about one for its human peers.

August 28
 

SRC Incorporated in North Syracuse, New York, is being awarded a $7,957,573 cost-plus-fixed-fee completion contract for multi-intelligence swarm sensing research and development.

July 24, 2017
 
Army researcher Anthony J. Roberts powers a radio-controlled toy tank with hydrogen harvested from a unique chemical reaction. U.S. Army photo by David McNally

U.S. Army scientists and engineers recently designed an aluminum nanomaterial that produces high amounts of energy when it comes in contact with water, or any liquid containing water. Since the nanomaterial powder has the potential to be 3-D printed, researchers envision future air and ground robots that can feed off of their very structures and self-destruct after mission completion. Another possible application of the discovery that may help future soldiers is the potential to recharge mobile devices for recon teams.

July 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers
Image courtesy of the National Science Foundation

Scientists are on the verge of breakthroughs in developing technology for controlling robots with brain waves. Advances might one day allow intuitive and instantaneous collaboration between man and machine, which could benefit a wide array of fields, including the military, medicine and manufacturing.

The possibilities for brain-controlled robotic systems are practically limitless. Experts suggest the capability could allow users to operate unmanned vehicles, wheelchairs or prosthetic devices. It could permit robots to lift hospital patients or carry wounded warriors to safety. Factory robots could more efficiently crank out jet fighters or virtually any other product. 

July 1, 2017
By Sandra Jontz
Roboteam’s Zachary Lucas maneuvers the PROBOT Military Robot, a lightweight, all-terrain carrier and reconnaissance robot that hauls three times its own weight and allows hands-free operation. The adaptable plug-and-play platform can conform to troops’ missions to carry explosives, equipment, weapons and even troops themselves.

Robots have done their fair share of safeguarding troops on the battlefield, from defusing bombs to scouting out caves for insurgents. In spite of their success, or perhaps because of it, the U.S. Defense Department now wants its unmanned ground vehicles to be more than one-trick ponies. 

July 1, 2017
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

Robots, drones, automated devices—they are but a few of the names given to unmanned systems proliferating across the military and the commercial sector. The sky’s the limit for unmanned aerial vehicles, and no ocean is too deep for their underwater counterparts. Yet the potential for these devices, which seems unlimited, is being hindered by the human element they support. Planners must abandon convention and explore disruptive approaches that will allow unmanned systems to reach their full promise.

May 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers
The various components of the so-called electronic backpack are designed to stimulate the dragonfly’s flight control neurons.

Researchers are planning the inaugural test flight of a cyborg dragonfly, a brand-new type of micro aerial vehicle. Harnessing the power of nature, the hybrid system is smaller, lighter and stealthier than most man-made systems and could prove valuable for military reconnaissance and a variety of other missions. 

Scientists with The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Ashburn, Virginia, are partnering on a Draper-funded project known as DragonflEye

March 3, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
The Ghost Minitaur can now navigate grass, rocks, sand, vertical terrain, snow and ice fields, urban objects and debris.

The four-legged Chihuahua-size robot known as the Ghost Minitaur has been updated with advanced reactive behaviors for navigating grass, rocks, sand, vertical terrain, snow and ice fields, urban objects and debris. The platform boasts users including the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and Google.

December 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Roboteam has created a lightweight robot for troops and first responders. The Individual Robotic Intelligence System is a rugged, nearly 4-pound platform that can be thrown into any space to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information.

Today’s ruggedized robots will go where man has gone before—and where man should no longer have to go. While U.S. defense officials are not ready to fully relinquish warfighting duties to robots, they are on the fast track to acquiring technologies and platforms anticipated to shake up military operations.

November 29, 2016
 

Recent technological advances have brought the on-orbit robotic servicing of satellites closer to reality. Now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has kicked off the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) to tackle the lack of clear, widely accepted technical and safety standards for responsible performance of on-orbit activities involving commercial satellites.