Why is the U.S. Army pushing the development of unmanned technologies?
The primary concern of the U.S. Army in pushing for the continued development of unmanned technologies is to reduce the number of soldiers who are involved in the giant logistics tail and move them into fighting formations.
Automated Transport Vehicles (ATVs)
Several initial tests have been completed on automated transport vehicles at Fort Hood, Texas, and in other places and the U.S. Army expects to have all the documentation requirements ready by fall. This will signal a semi-autonomous technology that mimics a “follow-the-leader” concept where a number of unmanned vehicles follow a lead vehicle that is manned in a convoy. This was disclosed by the Army’s chief of transportation, Brig. Gen. John Sullivan during a conference on May 6.
Minimizing Manpower In Formation
According to Gen. Sullivan, the entire U.S. Army service is excited about this technology especially thinking about the potential of minimizing manpower needs information. It will also reduce the number of soldiers being called upon for ground resupply missions, making the service lighter and more expeditionary. Gen. Sullivan said that the unmanned vehicles can be shipped to conflict zones unarmored without worrying about the safety of a crew because no crew is deployed.
And for that alone, Gen. Sullivan said, the service is slowly introducing the semi-autonomous system into its formations and hopes to eventually move forward to fully autonomous formations. The U.S. Army is optimistic that the technology will succeed in what it promises to deliver.
Testing Cum Demonstration
Earlier this year the U.S. Army tested a military convoy consisting of unmanned vehicles at Fort Hood in Texas. The demonstration saw a convoy of manned Humvee leading two unmanned vehicles with a palletized loading system and an Autonomous Mobile Applique System (AMAS)-installed trailer-tractor truck. The convoy kept its original programmed course even as it passed through:
- traffic patterns
- a variety of rural and urban courses
- oncoming pedestrians
GPS And Other Features
The unmanned vehicles were outfitted with light detecting and ranging systems and GPS receivers to assist in navigation aside from the customized motors and winding assemblies that power the vehicles. The AMAS can be mounted and installed on any military ground vehicle, according to the representatives of Lockheed.
The demonstration was the last testing and assessment to complete the CAD phase of the program (Capabilities Advancement Demonstration). The demonstration showed how the AMAS / CAD software and hardware had performed well according to the design, having successfully dealt with all of the real-life obstacles that may be encountered by the convoy in real and actual situations.
The U.S. Army is pursuing efforts to develop next-generation vehicles that are better-protected, lighter, and can operate semi- or fully autonomously. The Army announced in April that it is looking to tap the expertise of industry, non-profit, and academic partners forming a consortium in developing both manned and unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) technologies. Including unmanned ground, vehicles indicate the path which the US Army service is planning to take in the future.
Crew Protection And Saving American Lives
The consortium idea is aimed at addressing the issues of crew protection, power production, and weight through collaborative thinking and conceptualizing from prime contractors and small businesses, and research labs. If manned vehicles are eliminated in logistics supply convoys, the unmanned ground vehicles would save a lot of American lives in the future.
What’s your take on unmanned ground vehicles?