Navy lab to build smarter robots

Simulated environments just one highlight of new high-tech facility

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has begun construction on a $17.7 million lab facility that will offer significant improvement in science and technology research capabilities.

The Autonomous Systems Research Laboratory “will integrate science and technology components into research prototype systems and will become the nerve center for basic research that supports autonomous systems research for the Navy and Marine Corps,” according to an April 8 NRL press release.

The 50,000-square-foot lab facility, slated for completion in May 2011, will provide for high-tech research in power and energy, intelligent autonomy and platform development.

Specialized labs are to include simulated environments for testing, such as variable wind, illumination and smoke variables to recreate the desert; mud and sediment pits, as well as wave tanks and a pool with sloping floors to channel a littoral coastal environment; and jungle and rainforest terrain within a greenhouse-type structure to replicate a tropical locale. A “reconfigurable high bay” will be large enough to fly small, test aircraft inside, and will includes a floor that can be flooded to mock flying over water.

“The simulated areas will become an adaptable test bed for system demonstration and validation prior to field testing, saving the Navy and Marine Corps significant funds,” the release states.

Four human-system interaction labs will support communications research between humans and robots, and a sensors lab will integrate chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear or explosives sensors into existing platforms and systems.

The new facility will be located at the NRL’s southwest Washington complex, between buildings 72 and 32, the release said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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