February 2, 2014
Unmanned Military Convoy Completes Successful Demonstrations
[ Watch the Video: Autonomous Convoys Tested By The US Army ]
As part of an initiative to develop military trucks capable of traversing dangerous territory without risking the lives of soldiers, the US Army has successfully conducted a series of demonstrations involving fully autonomous convoys.
The tests were conducted earlier this month at Fort Hood in Texas, and according to Wired’s Allen McDuffee, the Army’s Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin successfully showed that convoys comprised of various types of driverless vehicles of various models were capable of operating in urban environments.
During the tests, the vehicles were tasked with navigating a series of hazards and obstacles, including road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled vehicles, pedestrians and traffic circles. The demonstration completed the AMAS program’s Capabilities Advancement Demonstration (CAD), Lockheed Martin said in a statement.
“The AMAS CAD hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter,” said David Simon, AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. Development and testing of this platform is the result of an $11 million contract awarded to Lockheed Martin by the Defense Department last October.
“Somewhat like the jury-rigged systems seen on the first generation of robotized cars, the AMAS program for the Pentagon's ground troops uses standard-issue vehicles outfitted with a kit of gear including a high-performance LIDAR sensor and a second GPS receiver, locked and loaded with a range of algorithms,” added Jonathan Skillings of CNET. “That gear, Lockheed said, could be used on virtually any military vehicle, but in these tests was affixed to the Army's M915 tractor-trailer trucks and to Palletized Loading System vehicles.”
Lockheed Martin explained that the AMAS hardware and software were developed to automate the driving mechanisms on modern-day tactical vehicles. The Unmanned Mission Module portion of this system, which comes equipped with a high performance LIDAR sensor, a second GPS receiver and additional algorithms, comes as part of a kit which can be installed and used on just about any type of military vehicle.
For the purpose of this month’s demonstrations, that kit was integrated onto the Army’s M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle. Senior officials from the Army Materiel Command (AMC), the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) and TARDEC were on hand to witness the demonstration.
“It was very important that we had representation from the technology, acquisition and user bases, along with our industry partners, here at the CAD,” explained TARDEC technical manager Bernard Theisen. “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.”