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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.