Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, asked industry for input as the service determines common interfaces and open standards for the Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS), the near-term solution to the Army’s unmanned route clearance needs.
MTRS will be designed around the chassis of the existing Talon robot, of which the Army has deployed more than 2,200 in the past decade to keep soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan safe from roadside bombs and other threats, Shyu said at a National Defense Industrial Association ground robotics conference.
“The best thing to do in the near-term, we’ve got a whole bunch of Talons already, we bought thousands of those–can we utilize the chassis that already exists, open up the interface so any one of you guys can come and compete for the best payload,” Shyu told reporters after her presentation.
If I standardize the interface, I buy the best product at the lowest price. It makes sense. So in the near-term that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
However, “In the longer-term, I don’t want to be stuck with the same chassis forever, that’s not the goal,” she added.
As part of the multi-phase MTRS effort, the Talon chassis will receive upgraded sensors for short-term capability improvement. As that effort takes place, the Army will work with industry to develop an open architecture so a Talon-like chassis can accept any cameras, sensors, arms or other payloads. In the long-term, innovations in the chassis itself could result in a new body for the robot with the same open interfaces, allowing for continual improvement in the multi-mission ground robotics system.
Shyu warned industry that there were some challenges with this approach–namely, it is unclear what missions this robot would undertake and in what environments, so it needs to be ruggedized and prepared for the worst. But that uncertainty makes it all the more important to incorporate open architecture, Shyu said. Talon may focus on route clearance today, but a decade from now it could be doing any number of tasks.