Blacksburg, VA, United States - Jul 13, 2009 - TORC Technologies successfully demonstrated an autonomous ground vehicle system that can help to reduce casualties from roadside bombs.
In May, TORC was selected to participate in the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory's (MCWL) Enhanced Company Operations Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) 3.3 to demonstrate its Autonomous Remote Control HMMWVs (ARCH) system as part of a small unit resupply mission using unmanned ground vehicles. TORC successfully demonstrated the technology during multi-day training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.
With the increasing threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, unmanned systems such as ARCH provide the capability to place an unmanned vehicle in front of a convoy to help reduce casualties from roadside bombs.
Developed by TORC, the JAUS (Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems) interoperable ARCH system is designed to retrofit standard military vehicles for unmanned and autonomous operation, leveraging existing manned platforms with the unmanned capabilities while retaining the vehicle's original functions. The system consists of a "lead" vehicle with an integrated autonomous navigation system and a manned "chase" HMMWV with an integrated operator control unit.
The operator control unit enables the operator to monitor and control the autonomous lead HMMWV in teleoperated, semi-autonomous, and autonomous modes. The user can create pre-defined routes and mission objectives for the autonomous vehicle and make modifications to the route or objectives mid-mission.
TORC was tasked with training computer novice Marines to use the ARCH system without technical assistance. These Marines were then charged with performing the specified mission objectives using the autonomous vehicle system. The objectives included delivering a payload greater than 800 pounds to locations up to 30 km away in off-road settings at speeds up to 25 mph, using a mission planning tool to plan routes and modify them mid-mission, and demonstrating the ability of an autonomous system to safely operate in a dynamic "live force" environment.
"The LOE allowed TORC to demonstrate its advanced autonomous vehicle technologies, which were previously developed under funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and JIEDDO (Joint IED Defeat Organization), and see the continued maturation of these technologies as the Marine Corps evaluates the tactics, techniques and procedures to integrate and field unmanned vehicles in theatre," stated Michael Fleming, CEO of TORC. "Our focus remains on developing modular products that allow for the rapid integration and deployment of robotic solutions to dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks, and there is no shortage of this in Marine Corps logistics."
TORC integrated many of its own products into the ARCH system, using its own proven technologies in the system development. The commercially available products used include the SafeStop(tm) to provide a wireless emergency stop system, ByWire(tm) for rapid drive-by-wire conversion, RMDT(tm) to plan routes and mission objectives, a ruggedized version of the PowerHub(tm) distribution modules, and a customized version of the AutonoNav(tm) navigation system.
The autonomous navigation system has been successfully demonstrated as a finalist in the 60-mile DARPA Urban Challenge and under contract with JIEDDO during five days of experimentation with the ARCH system at the South West Research Institute. The ARCH system has also been demonstrated to MCWL and other select government organizations in private events.
The primary objective of this LOE was to determine autonomous ground vehicle requirements for future Marine logistics, including resupply, casualty evacuation, and other expeditionary missions. These requirements will help shape a roadmap for developing, acquiring, and integrating autonomous ground vehicle technologies into the Marine Corps.
Related Research on ASDReports.com: