Get ready for the Robotics Rodeo

Time to get crackin’ on those designs.  The U.S. Army has announced plans for Robotics Rodeo 3

The U.S. Army has just kicked off the submissions process for its Robotics Rodeo events designed to foster development of robots that can be used in the field to replace U.S. soldiers in dangerous situations or for routine tasks better handled by machines. The event is hosted by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, TARDEC and Fort Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab. TARDEC has just held an information event at its headquarters near Detroit, Michigan and industry submissions are due in January. Details are available here.

In 2001, the U.S. legislature passed the Senate defense authorization bill which mandates “one third of the operational ground combat vehicles of the armed forces will be unmanned by 2015.”

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Time is running short. There have been two events so far in 2009 and 2010. The first kicked off in 2009 at Fort Hood, in Texas and the 2010 event took place at Fort Benning, Georgia. The next U.S. Army Robotics Rodeo III is planned for May 2012 and it will again be held at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia.

The Robotics Rodeo provides an opportunity for engineers and researchers to come together and get a look at new ideas for military robots. Also, the event gives industry representatives a chance to meet with military people and experienced soldiers to understand what they need. The interaction has proven to be very valuable in the past says Dr. Jim Overholt, U.S. Army Senior Research Scientist-Robotics or TARDEC. He says, “by holding this Robotics Rodeo in 2012, the Army has waited a little more time for technologies to mature.”

Robotics Rodeo III will again have two opportunities for demonstration: an Extravaganza and the Robotic Technology Observation, Demonstration and Discussion (RTOD2). The Robotics Rodeo Extravaganza,  is open to the public and brings soldiers and industry together with government representatives. There will also be vendor booths and free style demonstrations.

The business end of the event is RTOD2. It’s a closed event where the Robots are exercised out in the field. This year, as part of the event, the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC)  has devised three demonstration “vignettes” that correspond to real-life situations for soldiers. The army is looking for robots with the following capabilities:

  • Deploy
  • Setup
  • Protect
  • Sustain
  • Relocate

The three vignettes include:

1. Corral:  the robot must establish a prone fighting position at an outpost perimeter as dictated by an operator.

2. Gunslinger: the robot must identify and alert the operator of hostile activity within a defined area and then acquire and track those moving targets.

3. Wagon Train, the robot must navigate multiple locations and unload material in a specified order upon arrival.

Competing robots have to complete their tasks autonomously.

For more details, see Images from the 2010 event are available here.


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