Military sees progress with leader-follower car expertise


by Yasmin Tadjadeh

A convoy of semi-autonomous palletized load system autos

protection division picture

The Military is trying to leverage robotics and different capabilities to allow its “leader-follower” idea for car convoys. After years of labor, the Military has made progress in creating the expertise.

On the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside bombs planted by insurgents crippled and killed troopers and civilians alike, focusing on convoys of autos and provides to bases.

To cope with the risk extra rapidly, the navy invested billions of {dollars} into armored, mine-resistant autos that would higher stand up to explosions. On the identical time, it kicked off an ongoing, long-term effort to construct out autonomous “leader-follow” expertise that would reduce down on the variety of troopers in future fights in addition to liberate troopers for different duties. Is.

The service is displaying progress. It has examined its leader-follower autonomy software program in occasions resembling Undertaking Convergence 2021, the place the navy tried out expertise that would assist its providing for the Pentagon’s joint all-domain command and management idea. Further work is being completed at bases resembling Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Main Benjamin Horman, expedient leader-follower undertaking officer for the Fight Capabilities Improvement Command’s Floor Automobile Methods Heart, mentioned the navy is primarily utilizing Palletized Load Methods, or PLS, unmanned follower autos throughout its experiments. The troops of 41ST Transportation Firm at the moment have 60 M1075 PLS vans outfitted with an autonomy system.

“The unit acquired new gear coaching two years in the past and has carried out a ‘train-the-trainer’ technique to keep up effectivity all year long,” he mentioned in an e mail. “This unit gives software program builders and engineers with real-time suggestions giving them the potential they want/want in a short time.”

The autos are at the moment utilizing a software program model referred to as LF 1.3.

Horman mentioned the Floor Automobile Methods Heart calls this “Engineering within the Grime Idea,” the place soldier suggestions is run via an agile software program dash to develop and replace the system each 90 days. In the meantime, the unit additionally gives info in order that the necessities and precept could be up to date.

He mentioned the navy confirmed off its expedient leader-follower approach on the service’s Undertaking Convergence train at Yuma Proving Floor, Arizona, this previous fall. The annual experiment has been referred to as a “studying marketing campaign” by officers and is meant to contribute to the Pentagon’s JADC2 effort, which goals to higher hyperlink sensors and platforms into an working community.

Horman mentioned that in Undertaking Convergence, executives employed two variations of its Autonomy software program and accomplished greater than 3,000 miles of robotics testing. The autonomous system was examined on palletized load system vans, chilly climate all-terrain autos and logistics car system substitute platforms.

Hormann mentioned the Military plans to check the leader-follower expertise in Undertaking Convergence 2022 with an autonomous missile launcher demonstrator as a part of an effort by Future Command’s long-range precision hearth cross-functional staff and DEVCOM’s Aviation and Missile Heart. Is.

In the meantime, the service lately accomplished a closing escalation of capability enhancements for its expedient leader-follower program, he mentioned.
For instance, the service merged current Autonomy software program with state-owned robotics expertise kernels, he mentioned. RTK is the navy’s library of modular software program packages that can be utilized for Widespread Floor Autonomy software program. The software program is predicated on what is named the Robotic Open Methods Structure-Army.

The latest increment additionally developed a characteristic referred to as “meeting and disassembly”, the place autonomous PLS vans could be inbuilt column formation primarily based on a person’s order, with the platform being “parked” in a line. whether or not it’s from the entrance – the again or the facet, he mentioned.

One other new functionality is a “retrotraverse” characteristic with trailers, which permits the PLS car to be reversed and what Hormann calls a “pin-and-pin-out operate”.

This functionality “permits the Warrior to again up an autonomous convoy with a trailer, with out having to step out and put the trailer traversing desk locking pin inside,” he defined.

Coming subsequent to the leader-follower program is the Military Testing and Analysis Command Safety Take a look at for the maturity of its software program model 2.0 system.

Over the following two years, the forty first transportation firm is ready to take part in three mass coaching middle workouts with leader-follower expertise, Hormann mentioned.

The GVSC and Product Administration Workplace for Robotic Autonomous Methods are additionally planning to additional mature the expertise’s software program and {hardware}, he added. This consists of elevated reliability and additional hardening of the system.

The Military is at the moment utilizing the procurement mannequin, the procurement mannequin and mid-tier acquisitions are more and more utilizing the fielding method relating to buying techniques, he mentioned.

“The PLS shall be a later determination level for this system’s file to extend capability and optionally mass-produce the manned leader-follower system,” Horman mentioned.

He mentioned the Military has been engaged on autonomous navy autos since 1999. Among the platforms on which the expertise has been examined embody Humvees, HX60 tactical vans, RG-31 mine-resistant ambush-protected autos, medium tactical car substitute techniques, M915 tractor vans, medium tactical autos, LMTV mild utility vans and heavy gear transporters. Huh. ,

Extra lately, autonomous {hardware} and software program techniques developed via the Floor Automobile Methods Heart embody Palletized Load Methods, Chilly Climate All-Terrain Autos, Excessive Mobility Artillery Rocket Methods in addition to the Marine Corps’ Logistics Automobile System Alternative Platform and the Marine Corps. The Corps’ Joint Mild Tactical Automobile Rouge Hearth variant, Hormann mentioned.

One firm that’s working with the navy on leader-follower expertise is Clarksburg, Maryland-based Robotic Analysis.

In 2018, the navy awarded the agency a three-year, $49.7 million contract to supply autonomy kits for giant convoy autos as a part of the expedient leader-follower program. Jim Freak, the corporate’s senior vp, mentioned Robotics Analysis has elevated its partnership with varied Nationwide Superior Mobility Consortium contract autos. It’s at the moment offering service technical assist on the expedient leader-follower effort.

The group is working with automakers resembling Oshkosh Protection with its leader-follower autonomy software program in areas resembling Fort Polk, Fort Sill and Camp Grayling, Michigan, for testing. The corporate gives autonomy software program and Oshkosh gives drive-by-wire kits for the autos, he mentioned.

He mentioned the corporate is engaged on “secure harbour”-like capabilities. Secure harbor features inform the platform what to do if there may be an assault or fault with the system’s sensors.

Freak mentioned leader-follower expertise has matured considerably through the years and may now be deployed. “Primary software program … that’s displayed, in our opinion, there may be not a lot left so that you can do earlier than implementing it.”

Nevertheless, there are nonetheless some challenges and room for enchancment. These embody tighter sensors and higher integration between autos and onboard gear.

An autonomous convoy usually consists of seven or eight autos, Freak mentioned. They’re all outfitted with an autonomy package and any car can act as a “chief” platform.

“In the present day there isn’t a requirement {that a} particular car be designated” because the main platform, he mentioned.

Robotics Analysis can also be working with the navy, the German Federal Ministry of Protection and Rheinmetall to assist the leader-follower expertise with allies.

The US navy “desires to broaden this functionality and make it interoperable with different autos … for convoy operations with Allied forces,” he mentioned.

Whereas the Pentagon has shifted its focus from counter-terrorism operations to nice energy competitors with opponents from Russia and China, Freak mentioned there may be nonetheless a necessity for leader-follower expertise.

“There are nonetheless going to be vulnerabilities to convoy operations and [a desire to] To scale back the variety of deaths and enhance effectivity to maneuver issues quick,” he mentioned. “The leader-follower goes to be helpful.”

Moreover, the autonomy packages which are being examined together with the leader-follower program are merely not related to convoy operations, Freak mentioned. This system has implications for different autos, together with fight techniques.

The identical “autonomy package that has been confirmed on the leader-follower is being deployed on different techniques that are weapons techniques,” he mentioned.

“Consider it as a springboard for coping with autos and different autos able to working autonomously in GPS-deprived environments.”

He added that the essential software program stack is moveable and can be utilized with a wide range of techniques, however could require completely different sensors for various platforms.

For instance, the autonomy required for off-road operations shall be completely different than for on-road ops.

“It is a tweaking of the system, not a complete new system,” he defined.

Along with working with the navy, Robotic Analysis additionally has contracts with different Division of Protection elements, such because the Protection Logistics Company, Freak mentioned. Final yr, DLA awarded the corporate a contract to develop an unmanned autonomous guided car for towing loaded autos out and in of warehouses.

In accordance with a Robotics Analysis press launch, DLA has 20 storage websites and greater than 570 warehouses. Improvement of the AGV might result in follow-up contracts for 100 autos.

Frelk mentioned the corporate can also be working with the Protection Menace Discount Company on retaliatory weapons of mass destruction efforts.
In the meantime, Robotics Analysis accomplished a $228 million Collection A funding spherical in late 2021 to broaden its industrial choices. It can bear fruit for the navy, Freak mentioned.

“The federal government advantages from the variety of miles pushed with equal autonomy potential and the teachings realized there,” he mentioned.

Topic: Military Information, Robotics and Autonomous Methods, Robotics

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