Future battlefields set for unmanned ground combat vehicles

Boeing and Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Consortium have been awarded $5.5 million to build and test a prototype robotic unmanned ground combat vehicle.

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Consortium and Boeing $5.5 million to build and test a prototype robotic unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV).

According to Boeing, the vehicle will be the first attempt at an autonomous ground combat vehicle that can operate on all types of terrain.

Carnegie Mellon will manage the program and complete the vehicle’s final assembly in Pittsburgh. Boeing will build the vehicle’s frame, hull, nose and payload compartment in Seattle.

‘This hybrid-powered vehicle, named Spinner, will combine fuel efficiency, survivability and payload flexibility to deliver the long-range capability required for UGCV missions,’ said John Bares, project manager and director of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Centre.

Spinner’s performance capabilities include the ability to negotiate and move swiftly over major terrain obstacles, withstand a moderate crash and rapidly recover and operate while inverted.

‘Our goal is to work smartly and efficiently with Carnegie Mellon to produce an outstanding prototype,’ said Wayne Hammond, Boeing UGCV program manager. ‘We’re taking advantage of the latest composite materials and fabrication processes, together with a unique structural concept that will be extremely crash resistant.

The 18-month award calls for the team to build and roll out a prototype by the end of 2002, then test it in 2003. The award follows two earlier awards; the first to define the concept and the second for further detail design.

Other companies working on the project include Timoney Technology of Meath, Ireland, which will build the vehicle’s unique invertible suspension and wheel drive units, and PEI Electronics in Huntsville, Alabama, which will supply the vehicle’s battery and power management system and key vehicle control software and hardware.