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U.S., allies test robots at Fort Benning

Jul. 18, 2013 - 01:03PM   |  
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FORT BENNING, GA. — On a gravel road at Fort Benning’s McKenna Urban Operations Complex, a Kaplan robot from Turkey scanned the complex and located an explosive device that was examined by a Talon robot built in the United States.

The exercise was aimed at assessing the interoperability of U.S. robots and North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations to design future unmanned ground vehicle systems and controllers. More than two dozen soldiers and engineers from Turkey, Germany and the United States watched as controllers from the different countries operated the equipment.

After using unmanned robots over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan to help locate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Army’s Maneuver Battle Lab is looking at the ability to have flexibility in operating NATO equipment on the battlefield as the next step to expand the use of robots.

“What we are looking to do is expand the use of the robotic platforms so that they can do more and more to help the soldiers on the field,” said Jim Parker, associate directer of Ground Vehicle Robotics at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Mich.

Tollie Strode, a project manager at the Battle Lab, said the Turkish robot was used as a point man to scan the area with sensors for possible threats. Once a threat was determined, the U.S.-made Talon with a retractable arm was brought in to defeat the threat.

“Once we determined there was a threat in the area, we brought up the system with all the tools that could interrogate and eventually defeat that threat,” Strode said.

On a battlefield, Strode said, the Turkish robot could be used to go over a hill and check for threats to soldiers. The robot has telescopic lenses and infrared night vision capabilities.

“It’s more of a true sensor,” Strode said. “It can extend the range of a soldier. It can go over the horizon and take a look at what’s going on. The soldiers in the unit that’s operating it are not exposed to direct fire. That’s the way we were using it in this.”

Parker said a third, larger robot, called the Dismounted Soldier Autonomy Tools (DSAT), can operate as a member of a squad. The robot can operate on a programmed script without soldiers having to control it.

“It will provide support that they don’t already have,” Parker said.

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