Editorial Feature

Advanced Military Humanoids

Introduction
Design of Advanced Military Humanoids
Advantages of Military Humanoids
Products on the Market – Advancements
     Petman
     Atlas - The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot
References

Introduction

A humanoid robot is a general purpose robot that used for experimental purposes such as for the study of bipedal locomotion, functional purposes such as interaction with environments and human tools.

The first mobile robots, Elsie and Elmer were developed by W.Grey Walter in 1950. Since the early developments of mobile robots, there have been major strides in manufacturing of these robots with the use of novel, small, inexpensive materials and advanced software.

It was stated in a review paper submitted by Lin P et al (2008) that humanoid robots are now developed in varying sizes and shapes ranging from small humanoid toys, such as the RoboSapien developed by WowWee Corporation to more complex humanoids such as the Honda ASIMO that can perform a number of tasks.

Military humanoid robots with biped legs and greater intelligence can move around the buildings, climb ladders or stairs, operate existing machinery, drive vehicles and fire weapons.

Military tracked vehicles can travel only around 50% in the natural environment, and the military wheeled vehicles can function on nearly 30% of the land surface. Military humanoids, on the other hand, can travel over the entire land surface.

Design of Advanced Military Humanoids

A typical humanoid robot would have sensors for measuring certain attributes such as sensing the position, speed of the joints and body of humanoid, environmental sounds and vision, etc. In addition, it includes actuators that are responsible for the robot's movement. However, planning and control is essential to allow humanoids to move in complex environments. The following section illustrates the design of a self-securable humanoid robot developed by Nair SR et al (2012), which can be used for research, military and industrial purposes.

The humanoid having 30 degrees of freedom (DOF) includes a shoulder, neck. hip, finger and wrist joints, and an elbow. It is mounted on a platform to move around a planar surface. The platform in turn includes four wheels, each of which is linked to DC motors. Its hip joint has one DOF, which enables the upper part of the humanoid to move horizontally.

The neck joint allows the head to rotate in a horizontal direction. The eyes of the humanoid are fixed with a web camera. Moreover, the platform can be fitted with sensors, a personal computer, lead acid batteries and a relay-based circuit for triggering the microcontroller circuits, geared motors and sensors.

The task to be performed is fed to the computer as voice commands by an operator. A serial code generated for each command is transmitted to the laptop on the platform. Software is used to generate, transmit and receive the code.

The code is then transmitted from the laptop to the microcontroller circuit via a RS-232 cable. The microcontroller starts checking for the environmental conditions such as obstacle detection with the help of sensors after receiving the signal.

If any obstacle is detected, the microcontroller transmits another serial code about the obstacle to the operator and waits for the instruction from him. The operator can visualize the environment under survey through the camera on the platform.

Also, the platform consists of a battery monitoring circuit for identifying the power crisis and switching of power sources. The humanoid closes its application and returns back to the source point if the last power source is switched or if it finds a security problem in the communication link.

Advantages of Military Humanoids

The key benefits of military humanoids include the following:

  • They are suitable for navigating human environments as they can climb steps, walk through doorways and drive human vehicles
  • They can fire standard-issue ammunition and weapons
  • Soldiers can easily train them through intuitive training approaches by pushing the humanoid's limbs via a series of movements
  • They can interact with non-combatants and patrol the areas of combat
  • They can co-operate with humans to control chaotic environments that require fast decisions, by creating a natural communication channel via a human form-factor.

Products on the Market – Advancements

Military humanoids play a vital role in protecting the soldiers and people in the battlefield, which in turn reduce fatality. Nearly 50 to 80 countries across the world have either started to use military humanoids or on the verge of acquiring the technology for their military programs. With all these developments, a number advanced military humanoids developed by different companies were sold in the market. Some of them are listed below:

Petman

Petman, developed by Boston Dynamics, is an anthropomorphic robot used for testing protective clothing of soldiers. Unlike suit testers that had limited motion and had to be mechanically supported, Petman balances itself and walks, bends and does various exercises freely when exposed to chemical warfare agents. It also controls sweating, humidity and temperature to simulate human physiology within the protective suit under various test conditions.

Atlas - The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot

Another agile anthropomorphic robot developed by Boston Dynamics is Atlas, which has high mobility and designed for moving outdoor, and along a rough terrain. It has bipedal locomotion, which leaves the upper limb free for lifting, carrying and manipulating the environment. It is strong enough to climb extremely challenging terrains using hands and feet. This robot has 28 hydraulically actuated DOF, a torso, two hands, arms, legs and feet. Its articulated sensor head consists of a laser range finder and stereo cameras. It is powered by an off-board, electric power supply through a flexible tether.

The Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics.

References


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