The US military is advancing technology that's putting Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) on a par with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as far as operating range is concerned.
At present, UAVs can be controlled at extreme range, allowing operators to remain in the US while the likes of the Shadow and Reaper drones can carry out aerial reconnaissance missions in foreign countries. Robots operating on the ground, however, are much more restricted and require the operator to be situated close-by. Typically, UGVs like the Talon can't stray more than one kilometre from their controls.
Now, though, the US Army's GVR (Ground Vehicle Robotics) division of TARDEC (Tank Research, Development and Engineering Command) has come up with a system called LDTO - Long Distance Tele-Operation. This provides UGV operators with a highly-protected web portal featuring a selection menu, linking them up to an interface that allows them to control the robots from remote locations and view the footage they're acquiring.
LDTO UGV Control System
To date, the LDTO's UGV control system has been used in conjunction with the PackBot, Talon and Omni-Directional Inspection System.
"While UAS are flying in theater, they're being controlled from here", GVR's Ty Valascho explained, in a US Army press release issued at the start of August 2010. "Our task within GVR was to see if we could get that capability working and be able to drive it using all in-house assets."
"We made the design choice early on to use a cellular data link, so securing that equipment, getting the appropriate approvals and working it through the configuration control board all took some time and effort", he added.
"Michigan State University and Wayne State University, who partner with us through the GRRC, assisted us with setting up the secure website and, once we had that, we were able to begin the challenge of getting the system to work."
Long-Range UGV Control
The US Army press release stresses that the work carried out so far has been a proof of concept demonstration and extensive modifications would be needed to bring the Long-Range UGV Control system to the battlefield.
"Our warfighters are very valuable people, so we try to reduce the amount that they're put into harm's way", Valascho concluded.
"I think this would be a very big benefit for the Army in terms of reducing risks to these valuable assets."
Talon UGV Image copyright US Navy
See also -
US Military Robot Technologies Showcased
Products and Services:
Companies supplying Unmanned Ground Vehicles