Tag Archives: Unmanned vehicles

Polaris Trucks Carry Commandos And Casualties – And Can Be Robots

Standard

2015-polaris-dagor-military-vehicle-utvunderground.com010-650x432

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“Polaris is a small, tough company that makes small, tough trucks, favored by the MarinesSpecial Forces, and allied nations. They’re basically military-grade dune buggies, easy to transport by plane or helicopter and easy to customize to the mission. In this video, Polaris shows us one of their larger DAGOR vehicles configured to carry a full eight-man squad and the smaller MRZR set up as a mini-ambulance — as well as where to attach the gadgets to make it self-driving for the Army’s S-MET robotics competition.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/10/polaris-dagr-ausa/

 

 

Pentagon Networks of Expendable Platforms

Standard

33817-DARPA-Swarm-oldsite

Photo: DARPA’s swarming concept (DARPA)

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Teams of lower-cost, unmanned systems that don’t need to return from battle will be critical for future warfighting, the head of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office said March 28.

Potential adversaries are developing new military technologies that are putting expensive U.S. military platforms and personnel at greater risk, William Roper noted at an Air Force Association conference in Arlington, Virginia.

“Increasingly we’re going to ask our designers, including those in industry, to help us shift all of the dangerous jobs in combat — as many of them as we can do in an ethical way — to machines that can take the brunt of at least that initial edge of conflict so that … we have the maximum number of our operators returning home safely,” he said.

Much of the technology required already exists, he said.

The Strategic Capabilities Office, also known as the SCO, has partnered with Defense Department research laboratories and other organizations on a number of projects along these lines.

One, called Perdix, demonstrated the ability of a fighter jet to launch a swarm of autonomous drones capable of performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Another, called Avatar, is a robotic “wingman” concept that would pair unmanned aircraft with a manned fighter. Doing so would reduce the number of pilots in harm’s way. The SCO is working on a similar concept for the Army, Roper said.

The office also has a program aimed at creating “a ghost fleet of expendable boats” that could team with U.S. Navy vessels, he said.

These types of systems offer an advantage over most of today’s platforms, he noted.

“All the things we build are expensive, and if they take off it’s our expectation that they come home and land,” he said. “That hasn’t been an issue until now” when there is greater concern about fighting advanced adversaries.

Requiring a high level of survivability is a huge constraint for system designers and operational planners, Roper said. Manned platforms have to be protected and refueled. They also require more maintenance and sustainment. That translates to higher costs for the Defense Department, he added.

Using relatively low-priced robotic systems to perform high-risk missions would provide greater operational flexibility and lower the costs of a loss or mishap, he said.

“There’s a reason why we don’t take fine china and crystal to have picnics anymore,” he said. “Once you’ve used paper plates and Dixie cups, you’re not coming back from that. It makes it a completely different experience. We haven’t had that equivalent in the military.”

Advances in autonomy, teaming technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling a greater reliance on robots, Roper noted.

“I think you’re going to see that more and more,” he said.  “Making a team of things perform a function that only an expensive thing would have done in the past.”

Despite these advances, humans will not be completely cut out of the loop. Nor will the Pentagon cease to buy high-ticket equipment, Roper said. But the role of high-priced, manned platforms could change.

“What I think … our high-end tactical systems will become is less weapon-slingers and they’ll become more like command hubs,” he said.

Roper likened the human warfighter of the future to an NFL quarterback running an offense. “They’re the ones that call the audibles … and it’s the team [of robots] that runs the play that has been picked,” he said.

This manned-unmanned teaming concept is driving much of what the Strategic Capabilities Office is working on, he said.

While machines are becoming smarter and more capable, they still have limitations, he noted. “Autonomy is very good at making brute force elegant,” Roper said. “But it’s very difficult for it to make strategic choices especially outside of the data set on which it’s built.”

Machines are more likely to fail when presented with a decision that they haven’t been programmed to make, he said.

“What that tells me is that I’m going to need people connected to the machine to help make choices when it’s that thing that hasn’t been seen before,” he said. “People are great at …  quickly being able to think strategically [and] get down to action in a way that’s cognizant of the risks that are being taken.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2465

A Military-Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere

Standard

“WIRED”

“We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense.

In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak for a new mission, another one can be printed out in a little more than a day, for just $2,500. It’s made with off-the-shelf parts and has an Android phone for a brain.

“We weren’t sure you could make anything lightweight and strong enough to fly,” says David Sheffler, who led the project. Sheffler is a former engineer for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce who now teaches at the university. After he created a 3-D printed jet engine in one of his classes, the MITRE Corporation, a DoD contractor, asked him to create a 3-D printed UAV that could be easily modified and built with readily available parts.

The first prototype, the orange and blue model seen in the video above, was based on a conventional radio-controlled (RC) aircraft made of balsa wood, which is much lighter and stronger than the ABS plastic used in the university’s 3-D printers. The same plane made of plastic would have weighed five times as much as the wood version. “You’re printing out of a material that’s really not well-suited to making an airplane,” Sheffler explains. On top of that, the way 3-D printing works—building things in layers—led to structural weaknesses in the aircraft.

To account for those downsides, Sheffler’s team reworked the design. They settled on a “flying wing” design, in which the whole aircraft is basically one big wing, and called it the Razor. The latest (third) prototype is made of nine printed parts that click together like LEGO. The center of the plane is all one piece, with a removable hatch that offers access the inner cargo bay. All of the electronics live in there, including a Google Nexus 5 smartphone running a custom-designed avionics app that controls the plane, and an RC-plane autopilot that manages the control surfaces with input from the phone. The Razor’s wing structure is one piece, with an aileron, winglets, and mount for the small jet engine that clip on.

“This program was really tasked with showing what is possible.”

The aircraft, with a four-foot wingspan, weighs just 1.8 pounds. Loaded with all the electronics gear, it comes in at just under 6 pounds. That lets it fly at 40 mph for as long as 45 minutes, though the team’s working to get that up to an hour. An earlier prototype could top 100 mph, and the team believes the plane could hit 120 mph, at the cost of a very quickly drained battery.

It can carry 1.5 pounds, so attaching a camera to it would be no problem. The batteries take two hours to fully charge and are easily swapped out, so if you’ve got three or four packs on hand, the Razor can be in the air nearly continuously. The plane can be controlled from up to a mile away, or fly on its own using preloaded GPS waypoints to navigate. The team uses the Nexus smartphone’s 4G LTE as well, meaning commands could be sent from much farther away, though FAA guidelines have kept them from long-distance testing.

Here’s where the 3-D printing really comes in handy: The design can be modified—and reprinted—easily, to be bigger or smaller, carry a sensor or a camera, or fly slower or faster. The plane can be made in 31 hours, with materials that cost $800. Electronics (like the tablet-based ground station) push the price to about $2,500. That’s so cheap, it’s effectively disposable, especially since you can make another one anywhere you can put a 3-D printer. If one version is flawed or destroyed, you can just crank out another.

Though the team’s research contract has run out, they’re hoping to get another one next year. If Sheffler’s right about how the technology will evolve, MITRE and the DoD would be wise to extend the partnership. “3-D printing is at the phase where personal computers were in the 1980s,” Sheffler says. “The technology is almost unbounded.”

“This program was really tasked with showing what is possible.”

http://www.wired.com/2014/09/military-grade-drone-can-printed-anywhere/