Traveling on and clearing IED-infested roads are two of the most dangerous tasks facing the U.S. Military, so with so many drones flying in the sky above them, why not have robots do the jobs for you?
That’s exactly what Oshkosh Defense is proposing with a new unmanned military machine. The truck specialist recently demonstrating one of its armored M-ATVs fitted with an autonomous vehicle platform called TerraMax.
Using a combination of GPS, radar, LIDAR and multispectral cameras with overlapping redundancies, the technology allows the truck to either navigate itself from point to point, with the ability to avoid unexpected obstacles along the way, or be controlled remotely by an operator in a trailing vehicle or stationed nearby.
The idea is that an M-ATV fitted with a mine roller could lead a convoy of autonomous vehicles through hostile territory while putting a minimum number of troops at risk. Over 2,500 American service members have been killed by IEDs in U.S combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and similar threats are expected to continue to present themselves in future conflicts.
According to Oshkosh, troops can be trained to operate the equipment in just a few days. Its relatively simple interface is a combination of a ruggedized touch-screen tablet and a console video game-style handheld controller that allows a single operator to oversee several trucks.
Technically, TerraMax-equipped vehicles could be operated from the other side of the planet, but the system’s chief engineer, John Beck, says that “from an operational standpoint, it is desirable for the troops to be in relatively near proximity in order to provide convoy protection and security in the event of an ambush.”
The technology is on display this week at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems in Orlando. And while it hasn’t yet been deployed in a combat theater, Oshkosh has released video of an unmanned mine-sweeping M-ATV leading two TerraMax-equipped cargo trucks through a proving ground course.