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Land Platforms

Xponential 2018: US Army advancing unmanned Robotic Wingman vehicle technology

08 May 2018
The Robotic Wingman vehicle manoeuvres semi autonomously through a course at Fort Benning, Georgia, in late 2017. This is the same course manned combat vehicles and their crews must pass before moving onto live fire training. Source: US Army

The US Army’s Robotic Wingman Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme will advance from an armed, unmanned Humvee truck to a tracked M113 armoured personnel carrier.

Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) “is co-ordinating the whole effort and the robotic portion of that, based on technology that we helped develop for them originally under a programme called DSAT [Dismounted Soldier Autonomy Tools], which started in 2012”, Chris Mentzer, manager for research and development at the Southwest Research Institute, told Jane’s at Xponential 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

As part of this effort, a vehicle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. Demonstrations have been done with a Humvee mounting a 7.62 mm remote weapon station firing at targets. The Army Armaments Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) and Picatinny have been working on a new remote weapon station, as issues were encountered with the previous M240B machine gun (the gas-driven gun would jam). The new effort will use the same calibre but will be electrically driven. A human must ‘pull’ the trigger.

The Wingman programme is intended to increased stand-off ranges between friendly and enemy forces. The ARDEC and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) at Dahlgren are also partners in the programme, which ran unofficially for several years but became official in 2017. Now, the USD20 million effort will run for three years.

The Robotic Technology Kernel (RTK) autonomy system is used for planning and controlling the vehicle’s mobility. The system incorporates driving cameras for remote operation, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors for object detection, stereo cameras for terrain and object classification, computers, and radios, as well as the hardware, cables, and mounts. The system can be manually teleoperated or autonomously driven through waypoint navigation.

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