RE2 Robotics is developing a kit to convert manned construction vehicles into unmanned platforms that are capable of airfield repair.
The Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) efforts, for which the US Air Force (USAF) awarded RE2 Robotics a USD2.9 million contract in April, will develop a kit to be used as a Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery (RADR) robotic system.
RADR is to be a rapidly installed robotic appliqué kit that converts legacy construction equipment (not drive-by-wire, for example) into tele-operable vehicles. The vehicle would not be permanently altered in any way.
Airfield damage repair efforts open, expand, maintain, and recover airfields. The missions are time consuming and need to be done on any day, in any weather, and for all aircraft types.
The system would minimise exposure to risks associated with hazardous operations. According to the USAF, several automated ground systems are being developed to perform air force Civil Engineer Operations such as aviation firefighting, hazardous incident response, aircraft decontamination, explosive ordnance disposal, and airfield repair.
RADR vehicles will be required to locate, classify, and measure damage to airfields and runways by utilising remote sensing and GIS technologies. Unexploded ordnance is to be located and neutralised; explosives are to be eliminated and damage to pavement (such as craters and camouflets) is to be repaired; and lighting systems are to be emplaced and marking and striping drawn.
The concept is for the kit to be rapidly installed on a construction vehicle if a need arises, and an operator could then safely perform the mission remotely. Once complete, the kit can be removed so the vehicle could once again be used by a human for other construction tasks.
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