PARIS–The Army is actively looking to industry for new robotics capabilities to tether unmanned ground and air systems, including tools to allow soldiers control over multiple autonomous vehicles from one system.
Don Sando, deputy to commanding general of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, told attendees at the Eurosatory conference here last week that the next generation combat vehicle modernization effort will require meeting the ability to manage multiple robotic vehicles from within the new system.
“We’ve seen a proliferation of aerial unmanned systems for 20 years now. Fluid dynamics is easier than the tyranny of terrain. But as you walk the floors here you see any number of ground systems,” Sando said during an Association of the United Army briefing at Eurosatory. “In an ideal sense, every formation has traditional capabilities that we know today, a ground robotic capability and an air robotic capability. We have the general construct, and the question now is what’s the right mix, range, capability, sensors do we need to tether this all together.”
The Army’s robotics modernization priorities will focus on increasing system capability relative to weight and boosting formations’ effectiveness relative to their size, according to Sando.
“So the M1 Abrams main battle is pretty good, but it’s pretty heavy. How can I improve that tank’s capability and reduce its weight? How can I improve that armored brigade combat team’s capability relative to its size? Because our formations are too big. Our equipment is too big. Our logistics are too demanding,” Sando said. “That’s why I’m here and asking all of industry to help me solve that problem. We think robotics and autonomous systems will play a large part moving forward.”
Army officials at Ft. Benning in Georgia are looking to industry solutions that allow soldiers greater control over a fleet of autonomous systems.
“The next big value in robotics systems is to go from one controller, one robot to one controller, many robots,” Sando told Defense Daily.
The more immediate goal is acquiring capabilities to tether together the Army’s robotic ground systems with quadcopters and UAVs, according to Sando.
“In an ideal sense, every formation has traditional capabilities that we know today, a ground robotic capability and an air robotic capability. We have the general construct, and the question now is what’s the right mix, range, capability, sensors do we need to tether this all together.”
Sando said he noticed the proliferation of ground systems from potential industry partners at the international Eurosatory conference, and believes those systems will be critical foundations to the Army’s next-gen combat vehicle modernization program.
“Just the number of robotic systems that I see here it’s more than it was four years ago and it’s more than it was last year at AUSA,” Sando said. “We want to go in that direction. It’s part of the next generation combat vehicle effort, the notion being one controlled vehicle with multiple robotic vehicles.”