The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, have successfully conducted, what the military calls a fully autonomous resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition demonstration. This was undertaken using something called a Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle, a K-MAX unmanned helicopter and a Gyrocam optical sensor. This was the first completely autonomous robot mission.
The test was conducted during the “Extending the Reach of the Warfighter through Robotics” capability assessment at Fort Benning, Georgia. The K-MAX delivered SMSS by sling load in order to simulate an autonomous resupply mission for soldiers defending a village.
When the mission was completed, the SMSS proceeded to an observation point. It was there where it raised a Gyrocam sensor and began scanning the area for any enemy military. If the simulation were in a real battle, then upon observation of any enemy forces, the remote operator would notify the commander on the ground.
Scott Greene, vice president of Ground Vehicles for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control said, “Fully autonomous capabilities as we’ve just demonstrated will allow service members to focus on important missions and remain out of harm’s way…This successful demonstration with both unmanned air and ground vehicles shows us that these missions are not only possible, but can be available much sooner than you would expect.”
Dr. Paul Rogers, TARDEC director said, “The synergistic use of unmanned air and ground vehicles will give warfighters a larger operational reach, and allow execution of missions that are currently performed at great risk to the warfighter.”
The heavy-lifting K-MAX unmanned system is a transformational technology that can lift 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level and is capable of flying delivery missions day and night. During this test, the Gyrocam 9-inch, mid-wave surveillance sensor gave constant video surveillance during the mission. The elevated system scanned for threats and provided geo-location coordinates of hostile personnel.
Dan Spoor, vice president of Aviation and Unmanned Systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business said, “This demonstration signifies another use for robots and this brings us closer to the pinnacle of how we use unmanned systems…There is significant potential for these types of systems for humanitarian aid, the civilian oil and gas industry, firefighting and for other military applications.”
Both the SMSS and K-MAX were equipped with mobile Satellite Communications (SATCOM) systems. A SATCOM remote operations center controlled and monitored the vehicles’ activities throughout the demonstration.
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