Remote control unmanned vehicles are being developed for the US and UK military for the disposal of unexploded munitions – but the technology could also see robots taking the place ofsoldiers in 10-15 years.
UK Robotics, the Manchester-based technology specialist,is partnering the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and others to develop teleoperated ground vehicles for the US Defense Department and theUK’s Ministry of Defence. The vehicles will be demonstrated in May 2001.
The operator controls the vehicle through a stereoscopic headset or a 3D image on a screen using polarised glasses, similar to those used to watch 3D movies. In the future, screens that give stereoscopic vision without the need for headsets or glasses will be possible, but are currently at an experimental stage.
Remote vision systems could mean unmanned vehicles being used in the future for military reconnaissance.
For bomb disposal, the vehicle has a manipulator and arm fitted. The technology used is similarto pick-and-place robots used in manufacturing, although the dexterity of the arm and ‘hand’ have been greatly improved.
Manipulation is pressurecontrolled, allowing the user to control the amount of force applied. The system may allow an unmanned vehicle to manoeuvre in a building, opening doors and negotiating obstacles.
Philip Dandy, Dera business group manager, said that remote controlled vehicles are currently undergoing field trials in Bosnia and Kosovo for general munitions clearance.