Robotic Technology of Potomac, Maryland, is developing an autonomous robot that is able to perform long-range, long-endurance military missions without the need for manual or conventional refuelling.
The patent-pending robot can do so because it can find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment, as well as use conventional and alternative fuels such as petrol, diesel, propane and solar when suitable.
The source of power for the so-called Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, or EATR, is a hybrid external combustion engine system developed by Cyclone Power Technology.
Unlike internal combustion engines, the Cyclone engine uses an external combustion chamber to heat a separate working fluid (deionized water) which expands to create mechanical energy.
This is integrated with a biomass combustion chamber to provide heat energy for the engine that then provides electric power for a rechargeable battery pack, which powers sensors, processors and controls, and a robotic arm/end effector.
The data from the optical, ladar, infrared and acoustic sensors is processed by a control system to provide the situational awareness such that the robot is able to identify and locate suitable biomass.
The control system also controls the movement and operation of the robotic arm/end effector to manipulate the biomass and ingest it into the combustion chamber as well as control the operation of a hybrid external combustion engine to provide suitable power.
So far in the development cycle, engineers at Cyclone Power Technologies have coupled their proprietary steam generator with the compact biomass furnace and produced sufficient steam to power the robot's six-cylinder, 16HP Waste Heat Engine (WHE).
With this stage of development complete, Cyclone will now commence system performance testing with the goal of delivering a complete beta system to Robotic Technology in the next 90 days.
'Cyclone’s technology is ideal for our robotic vehicle to perform a wide range of either military or civilian tasks. The potential commercial applications are enormous for biomass powered equipment and vehicles,' said Dr Robert Finkelstein, president of Robotic Technology.