Army seeks robo-cart for IED hunt in Afghanistan

Semi-autonomous vehicle would accompany foot patrols through rugged terrain

The Army is asking small business for assistance developing a semi-autonomous, remote-controlled vehicle that is bigger than existing robotic devices now used to hunt for hidden improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, reports Spencer Ackerman with Wired’s Danger Room blog.

The solicitation was issued apparently because the robots deployed in-theater are not finding as many IEDs as the Army had hoped. The solicitation indicates that the Army is going in a different direction and seeking a vehicle that might be as large as a golf cart or small tractor.

The solicitation calls for an autonomous system that would weigh between 500 and 3,000 lbs. and be capable of traversing long distances on narrow, rugged paths.

The so-called Intelligent Behavior Engine would support hydraulic arm attachments and allow for “backseat driving” by operators who would provide intermittent directional cues from a hand-held device that might include a visualization of nearby terrain and hazard data, according to the solicitation.

Concepts submitted should be able to demonstrate at least one method for sensing buried explosive devices and another for neutralizing them.

The solicitation emphasizes that the main focus of the work should be on the intelligent software behaviors and human interfaces that support the vehicle’s semi-autonomous functionality.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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