The Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) held its first challenge-based acquisitions event June 20-29 at the third annual Robotics Rodeo in Fort Benning, Ga., and all the big players participated, from iRobot to QinetiQ. The event put robots and sensors through field tests to seek solutions for the battlefield and identify those companies worthy of investment. (For a list of this years challengers click here.)
?By partnering with JIEDDO this year, our competitors have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the latest technology for soldiers and the top DOD stakeholders for robotics developments,? said
Dr. Jim Overholt, U.S. Army Senior Research ScientistRobotics.
Sponsored by the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the Robotics Rodeo brings together the defense, homeland security, academia and industry communities to energize robots in support of the warfighter.
?By partnering with JIEDDO this year, our competitors have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the latest technology for soldiers and the top DOD stakeholders for robotics developments.?Dr. Jim Overholt, U.S. Army Senior Research ScientistRobotics
Goals of the Robotics Rodeo are to inform senior Army leaders of emerging capabilities, align the robotics industry with Army operational needs, educate soldiers and developers on the current state of robotics and demonstrate the emerging robotic technologies that may address capability gaps in the efforts to defeat improvised explosive devices.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain a growing threat to troops patrolling on foot. Each day, a soldier on foot patrol ? dismounted, in military terms ? walks an average of six-to-eight hours on a patrol and is forced to search for IEDs with metal detectors, probes, bomb-sniffing dogs and other tools. The problem here is proximity ? many of these proven systems provide minimum standoff, which is distance away from the threat. This makes the warfighter more exposed to injury.
Robotics, on the other hand, can provide greater standoff between the soldier and the IED. This keeps the soldier out of harm?s way by allowing the robot to detect and disable the threat.
?We are looking to push robotics into supporting more dismounted roles,? said Matt Way, a JIEDDO program integrator. ?We want to know if current robotic technology can provide effective counter-IED enablers without being too much of a burden or distraction to a dismounted patrol.?
JIEDDO is looking for robotics to fill three specific capability gaps through participation in the rodeo. It is seeking systems that can disable IED delivery systems in multiple environments, mitigate effects of IED attacks on both dismounted and mounted troops and detect IEDs from a safe distance.
A robot that excels in the competition ?does not have to fulfill all three capability gaps to get JIEDDO?s attention; it just has to provide capability that improves freedom of maneuver beyond current hand-held systems? said Way.
JIEDDO selected 35 vendors to compete in its C-IED Robotics Challenge during the rodeo. The four challenge categories are endurance, reconnaissance, detect and disrupt.
Challenges were not intended to represent a comprehensive exam or test of any kind, rather showcase vendors worthy of JIEDDO?s attention.
The challenges? course was a dirt road, navigable by a standard sport utility vehicle and meant to resemble the terrain of Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is important to develop metrics for small robotics because ?we want to understand their true performance and suitability limitations,? he said.
Mobility is the ease in which a robot can go over rocky, varied terrain. Suitability pertains to the operator and includes factors such as how easy it is to control and a soldier?s ability to carry it long distances.
Two basic metrics were used for all four challenges. The first was the time it takes to complete the challenge. The other is the number of threats detected and disrupted.
JIEDDO has the unique ability to rapidly procure new capabilities for the warfighter. It is constantly seeking the most promising counter-IED solutions in the areas of pre-detonation, counter-threat networks, detection, counter-devices, homemade explosives, information integration and fusion, and weapons technical intelligence.
Thirteen of JIEDDO?s system integrators and acquisitions personnel will be on site all nine days of the competition. Their intent is to find current state-of-the-art technology through each of the challenges? results for possible applicability on the battlefield.
JIEDDO is looking for systems that ?can be applied to current programs, such as the fight in Afghanistan, or future needs,? said Way.
And the winners are?.
Today, Ohio-based HDT Global announced its Protector robot as the winner of JIEDDO?s Disrupt Challenge. The three foot wide and five foot long Protector lightens loads for troops by carrying up to 1000 pounds of supplies and simultaneously clears paths of explosive threats. Wirelessly controlled, the diesel-powered Protector features rugged tracks and a suspension system similar to that on a tank, allowing maneuverability through rugged terrain and challenging trails.
RE2?s ForeRunner Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) won the Endurance Challenge in the dismounted support category.
RE2?s CEO, Jorgen Pedersen, claims the ForeRunner, with a top speed of 40 KPH, is the fastest vehicle in the dismounted support class of UGVs. Originally designed under a U.S. Army Phase II SBIR as a high-speed scouting and inspection UGV, the ForeRunner combines the speed of a small scout UGV with the physical inspection capabilities of man-portable tracked robot. The ForeRunner is an interoperable platform that can accept a variety of payloads, such as explosive detection sensors and manipulator arms, via its Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) interface, enabling the vehicle to rapidly adapt to the mission at hand.