Robotics

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.

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