Crushing advance for troops

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and US Army have unveiled the Crusher unmanned ground combat vehicle at CarnegieMellonUniversity‘s National Robotics Engineering Centre in Pittsburgh.

Crusher is a six-wheeled, all-wheel-drive, hybrid electric, skid-steered, unmanned ground vehicle. According to DARPA, the vehicle weighs 14,000lb fully fuelled and is designed to carry a maximum 8,000lb payload.

It is a new class of unmanned ground combat vehicles (UGCVs) developed under the DARPA/Army UGCV-perception for off-road robots integration (UPI) programme. It is equipped with perception capabilities, and will be used to validate the key technologies necessary for an unmanned ground vehicle to perform military missions autonomously. Crusher will also be equipped with representative sensing and weapons payloads for planned field experiments.

John Bares, director of the National Robotics Engineering Centre and UPI principal investigator, said that vehicles like Crusher will first be used in convoy or support roles, then tactical roles. ‘In five to 10 years we should see robots working alongside our troops to protect them and help with tasks in the field,’ he said.

The UPI programme will conduct field tests of the two Crusher vehicles and their perception and payload systems, with experiments planned at Fort Carson, Colorado this summer.

It will culminate in 2007 with troops operating Crusher vehicles during missions in natural terrain.