QinetiQ North America Develops Kit to Transform Bobcat Loaders into Robots
MCLEAN, Va., Aug. 10 /PRNewswire/ – QinetiQ North America, makers of the TALON(R) robots used extensively to defuse roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced a new large-scale robotic capability today that it has developed jointly with Bobcat Company, manufacturer of Bobcat(R) compact loaders, in response to the increasing size and lethality of roadside bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group has developed a kit that can be installed in about 15 minutes on any of 17 models of Bobcat skid-steer, all-wheel steer, or compact track loaders that are equipped with the Selectable Joystick Controls (SJC) option. This temporarily turns the loader into a remotely operated “robot” capable of using more than 37 Bobcat-approved attachments. The loader can be sent down-range to handle large, deep-buried IEDs that require actual excavation to dislodge or a bucket to lift and remove. In Afghanistan, where there are reported to be more than 100 million mines, Bobcat loaders could also be used to remotely render safe mines on building sites.
Upon completion of a mission, the kit is removed and the machine reverts to “in the seat” operation. The kit can be swapped from one SJC-equipped Bobcat loader to another by the user, allowing the mission to dictate what size machine to use along with what specific attachment works best.
The robotics kit for Bobcat loaders includes seven cameras, a microphone to enable the remote operator to hear ambient sound from the cab, three different CREW 2.1 compatible radio options, three control options (laptop, wearable and table top), green and yellow warning lights to signal robotic engagement, an anti-rollover warning system, and emergency manual shut off switches on the vehicle and on the control panel that support remote restart.
The kit’s hardened electronics are rated at 156 degrees F to handle the solar load in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and have passed rigorous MIL-STD-810F environmental testing. Cameras include five mounted on the roof, one in the cab and one on the vehicle looking at the load. Night vision is provided by IR Illumination and thermal imaging in addition to the white lights on the Bobcat loader itself.
“Other companies have roboticized individual pieces of earth-moving equipment, but until now, no one has created a universal kit that can quickly remotely control any Bobcat SJC-equipped loader used in the rough manner the military requires,” said Dr. William Ribich, President of the Technology Solutions Group. “The kit gives the warfighter and bomb disposal teams tremendous flexibility in a cost-effective manner, given the low cost of the Bobcat loaders manufactured in high volumes for civilian uses compared to customized robots built in small numbers just for counter-IED activities.”
“The versatility of the Bobcat loaders coupled with QinetiQ’s expertise in remote operations, makes for a great system. The pan/tilt camera positioned where an operator’s head is normally located, along with ambient sounds from the loader, gives the user the sense of operating from the seat. Operators quickly adapt to the different controllers available to make it an effective combination,” said Mike Melroe of Bobcat Company.
About QinetiQ North America
QinetiQ (pronounced “kinetic”) North America delivers world-class technology and responsive solutions to government agencies and commercial customers for many of their most urgent and complex challenges. QinetiQ North America is an independent, innovative technology provider that earns over a billion dollars in revenue operating with small company speed and agility while leveraging significant global resources. More than 6,400 QinetiQ North America engineers, scientists and other professionals have the mission knowledge and proven, reliable performance to meet the rapidly changing demands of national defense, homeland security and information assurance customers. QinetiQ North America is part of QinetiQ Group PLC, one of the world’s leading defense and security technology companies. For more information, please visit www.QinetiQ-NA.com.
About QinetiQ North America Technology Solutions Group
QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group, headquartered in Waltham, MA, includes the businesses formerly known as Foster-Miller, Inc., Planning Systems Incorporated, Automatika, Inc., Applied Perception, Inc., Spectro, Inc., and the research and development activities of Apogen Technologies, Inc. It is an 800-member technology and product development group with an international reputation for delivering innovative products and systems that perform under the most demanding conditions.
About Bobcat Company
More than 50 years ago, Bobcat Company unleashed a way to work better, smarter, faster, with the introduction of the Melroe Self-Propelled Loader. That machine evolved into the Bobcat skid-steer loader and spawned the worldwide compact equipment industry. Bobcat Company, headquartered in West Fargo, N.D., is part of Doosan Infracore International, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Doosan Infracore, a global manufacturer of construction equipment. For more information about Bobcat and its product lines, please visit www.bobcat.com.
SOURCE QinetiQ North America