We have all heard about the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) flying reconnaissance missions and in many cases unleashing missiles to neutralize the enemy without placing soldiers at risk. UAV’s have proven themselves to be an invaluable asset for taking out insurgents, providing reconnaissance and in many cases coming to the aid of soldiers in need of assistance. What about unmanned ground vehicles (UGV’s)?
Unmanned ground vehicles intended to save the lives of their human counterparts will, in the near future, be as common as the UAV’s. They range in size from the size of a remote controlled toy to a small car.
The Dragon Runner is a small, extremely durable reconnaissance robot currently being used in Iraq. At only 15.5 inches long and 11.25 inches wide it is designed to withstand being thrown from a moving vehicle or down a flight of stairs. The Dragon Runner s invertible, if it lands upside down it will continue on its mission. In urban combat it acts as the eyes and ears for the soldiers providing valuable intelligence without endangering human lives.
The Packbot has performed thousands of missions in Iraq saving countless lives. The controls are much like those of the Xbox or Sega Genesis video games. The Packbot was designed with versatility and maneuverability in mind. Featuring two video channels and eight payload ports, each is equipped with Ethernet, USB, and power. One example of how the Packbot saves lives in a combat situation is IED detection. When equipped with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal kit the Packbot can “sniff out” explosives, place explosive detectors near potentially dangerous items, extend its arm up to seven feet to look under vehicles or in windows. The Packbot can traverse rocks, mud, snow, gravel, rubble, and climb stairs.
The multifunction utility/logistics equipment vehicle or ”Mule” features a hybrid design for long-range operations and silent running when necessary. The Mule can roll right side up or upside down, in the event that it lands on it side the arms can maneuver it onto its wheels so it can continue on its mission. The Mule can carry up to 2,000 pounds of weapons, supplies or personnel. The Mule is semi-autonomous and when fitted with a follow device a single individual can call on it to deliver supplies on the battlefield. The Mule is equipped with chemical-biological sensors as well as a variety of night vision devices; it can also act as a water purification system.
The tele-operated Gladiator is the first tactical UGV; it can search out and destroy multiple targets while being controlled from a safe distance. The Gladiator is also capable of conducting unmanned scout, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions.
Although still under development, the BEAR might someday be the best hope for survival for a wounded soldier. The BEAR is a humanoid unmanned rescue robot; it can travel onto the battlefield, near chemical spills or into buildings to rescue wounded personnel.