Editorial Feature

Unmanned Ground Robots for Government Use

An unmanned ground robot is mechanized equipment that moves over the ground surface without human presence. It can be used for applications that may be impossible, dangerous or inconvenient for humans.

Unmanned ground Robots employ a group of sensors that monitor the environment. Such systems then make decisions automatically or pass the information to humans present at a different location to help control these robots by means of a teleoperation system.

They are actively employed for military and civilian applications to carry out various high-risk activities.

The following are the several modes of locomotion of the unmanned ground robot:

  • Legs
  • Tracks
  • Wheels.

Other types of unmanned ground vehicle systems include autonomous robots that use its sensors to gain knowledge about the environment and then determine the next action with the help of control algorithms. Supervisory controlled robots are those that combine the inputs from both the sensors and the human operator to determine their action.

Design of Unmanned Ground Robots

The following are the subsystems present in the unmanned ground robots:

  • Input (sensory) systems - Sensory equipment of these robots include sonar, radar and seismic, visual, auditory sensors. However, visual sensors are the most important sensors as visualization is more critical for the robot to evaluate its operational environment for navigation. Also, color detection performed by visual sensors is important for certain operations such as detection and surveillance of land mines.
  • Navigation systems - These robots navigate in accordance with sensory and planning systems to understand the operational environment and select the path depending on the mission constraints and vehicle's potential. The navigational task can be broken down into smaller steps known as homing steps to ensure dynamic planning and execution of navigation.
  • Communications and networking - Although radio communication is ideal for unmanned ground robots, wireless communication also proves helpful owing to the mobile nature of these robots. Decentralization of network schemes into the mobile ad-hoc network can enhance the reliability of terrestrial radio networks. In cases where the robots use military radio systems such as SINCGARS, it has been found that the communication system will have the potential to transmit data. It is assumed that the robots use wireless networking systems with same transmission and reception ranges when they do not have military radio systems.
  • Coordination systems - To perform military operations effectively, unmanned ground robots should co-ordinate with different teamwork models such as the collector and recorder team that performs terrain mapping, mine detection, etc, the “swarm,” collective team that implements communications or surveillance networks and an infantry squad or a SWAT team.

How Unmanned Ground Robots Work?

Remote-operated unmanned ground robots

It is controlled by an operator through a communications link. The operator determines all the actions of the robot depending on the remote use of sensors such as digital cameras or direct visual observation. It is predominantly used as a substitute for humans in hazardous conditions. It is also being developed for urban street presence, ground surveillance, checkpoint/gatekeeper operations and peacekeeping operations.

Autonomous unmanned ground robots

Autonomous robots operate by collecting information about the environment and developing building maps. It travels between way-points without human assistance and detects desired objects such as vehicles and people. It works for long durations, and has the ability to self-repair.

Advantages of Unmanned Ground Robots

The key benefits of an unmanned ground robot include the following:

  • It can be used for any division of military including the Marines, Navy and Army.
  • It can spot enemies before anybody is harmed.
  • It can carry payloads of up to 1000 lb.
  • It can spot explosives, which can be the main cause of death.
  • When the detected bomb cannot be defused, it can also detonate the bomb.
  • It can be used in any type of ground surfaces at speeds of up to 25 mph.

Products on the Market – Advancements

Military unmanned ground robots are engineered to reduce the need of human presence in battlefield and accomplish military objectives. The scope for research on unmanned ground robots is broad, and a number of innovative and efficient robots are being introduced in the market for various military operations. Some of the products include the following:

Beetle Nano UGV

The Beetle developed by Allen Vanguard is a nano-unmanned vehicle system (N-UGV) that retrieves audio and visual information from regions that are difficult to be accessed by human. It is 9” long and 7” wide. It is operated through a control display system that has FHSS telemetry, COFDM video and non-line of sight capabilities.

The key benefits of The Beetle include the following:

  • Easy to carry
  • Scalable
  • Withstand drops from height of about 2 m
  • It can carry specialized payloads.

Pointman Tactical Robot

This robot developed by ARA is a small unmanned ground vehicle that provides low light and daylight video in a highly robust mobile platform. It employs wheels for quick movement through the terrain. This robot features a flat camera boom assembly that allows the robot to examine under vehicles. Stair-climbing and self-righting properties have been incorporated into this robot which allows the system to be dropped from multi-story structures to perform reconnaissance activities.

Functional capabilities of the Pointman Tactical Robot. Video courtesy of ARA Force Protection

The key benefits of the Pointman tactical robot include the following:

  • Under vehicle inspections
  • High-risk warrants
  • Reduces danger to the team in all situations
  • Inspection of contaminated zones
  • Delivery system for providing necessary things like food, cell phones, etc.

Sources and Further Reading

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