U.S. Army Holds Robot Rodeo

attack-robotFORT HOOD, Texas–Soldiers and civilian contractors braved the heat here this week for the first Robotics Rodeo to view and interact with a long lineup of robot systems and to give feedback on which ones could potentially find a place in the U.S. Army’s robo stable.

Despite the hundreds of military robots that show up in concept or as prototypes on company Web sites and corporate reports, humans still do the fighting on the ground and it’s likely to stay that way for a while. However, there’s a growing niche for “the dirty, the dull, and the dangerous” jobs where robots could take over. In fact, it’s the law. The 2001 Senate defense authorization bill mandates that “one third of the operational ground combat vehicles of the armed forces will be unmanned by 2015.”

The Army wants robotic researchers, developers, and manufactures, many of whom have collected millions in government seed money and grants over the years, to get off the dime and start delivering (PDF).

Here is What the Army Website Says:

Howdy, partners. It’s time to saddle up for the Robotics Rodeo! The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Fort Hood III Corps want you to demonstrate your innovative and new unmanned ground systems technologies to the U.S. Army user and research and development communities at the Robotics Rodeo at Fort Hood, Texas, from Aug. 31 through Sept. 4, 2009.

The Robotics Rodeo demonstration is not a competition or sole source justification but, rather, a market research event to see if your technology will potentially benefit Army robotics programs.

Current Army areas of interest for unmanned ground system technologies include, but are not limited, to the following capabilities:

  • Supervised autonomous navigation that can maneuver through rough terrain under adverse environmental and lighting conditions.
  • Unmanned reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, scout and engagement.
  • Navigation in global positioning system (GPS)-denied environments.
  • Command and control of robotic assets.
  • An agnostic autonomous kit ready for any wheeled vehicle.
  • Sensor information projected to a remote work station.
  • Increased situational awareness by vehicle operators.
  • Safer operation in limited-visibility environments.
  • Increased operational tempo and a decrease in friendly vehicle collisions.
  • A large robotic platform that can navigate autonomously with manned systems.
  • Robots that can assume roles as a member of a squad or formation.
  • Man-portable robots – less than 50 pounds per module – that fit into a Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment pack for stowage.
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