UAS and Robotics

System can make military convoys autonomous

The vehicles in military convoys could soon be able to negotiate the hazards in urban war zones on their own, with the help of sensor-laden technology that can make almost any military vehicle fully autonomous.

The Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin successfully demonstrated the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) earlier this month at Fort Hood, Texas. Driverless vehicles equipped with AMAS were able negotiate intersections, traffic circles and oncoming traffic, get around stalled or slower vehicles and detect and stay clear of pedestrians, according to Lockheed.

AMAS, developed under an $11 million contract awarded to Lockheed in 2012, is a hardware and software package that includes a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensor, an additional GPS receiver and algorithm-driven software, and can be installed as a kit on virtually any military vehicle, Lockheed said. During the Fort Hood tests, it was used on M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System vehicle.

Although it automates driving and navigation, AMAS also allows a driver to take control of the vehicle, as a situation demands.

 “We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter,” said Bernard Theisen, TARDEC’s technical manager.

The AMAS program is a joint effort of the Army and Marine Corps, and is part of an overall effort to bring more autonomous equipment into the field, in order to keep soldiers out of harm’s way. TARDEC’s Robotics Program, for example, also is developing unmanned vehicles for use in urban settings. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab also has tested unmanned vehicles in a convoy.

The Pentagon, in fact, recently released its 25-year plan for developing a networked force of unmanned air, sea and ground vehicles.

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