A Long-Recognized Necessity

Robots can be used to transport and launch small UAVs from remote locations. (Image courtesy of the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC) Members)

The need for interoperability among systems was recognized nearly 20 years ago, when the Department of Defense's development of the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Ground Systems (JAUGS) provided a framework for the way system components talk to one another. In the early 2000s, JAUGS was adapted to include not only ground systems, but also maritime and air systems, and became the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS). The Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NAVEODTECHDIV) selected JAUS to serve as the foundation of its Advance Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) program.

From that point on, open standards became a requirement for Department of Defense programs and, in 2009, the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board mandated that all federally acquired UGVs be JAUS-compliant. At the same time, Robotic Systems Joint Project Office (RSJPO) recognized the need for interoperability among systems and established a team, comprised of both government and industry personnel, to form the foundation of the IOP framework.

Likewise, RE2 remains committed to developing manipulator arms that meet IOP standards. For instance, the company's Highly Dexterous Manipulation System (HDMS) can be easily mounted onto an existing robotic platform to efficiently conduct a variety of missions.

“In the long term, we believe that the IOP will reduce integration costs, shorten the time to integrate new technologies, and enable an ecosystem where certain sensors and manipulators can be very easily used and controlled across different host robots,” says Mazzara. “We believe that these benefits will not only help the government, but will be an advantage to both large OEMs, by reducing their subsystem integration costs, and small companies, by lowering the barrier to entry into the defense market, giving them more potential end users of their sensors and manipulators.”

A robot equipped with RE2 Robotics’ Highly Dexterous Manipulation Systems (HDMS) retrieves a suspicious-looking device. (Image courtesy of RE2 Robotics)

Looking Ahead

While UGV technology continues to advance, RE2 is focused on implementing interoperability standards as it researches and develops robotic arms that are compatible with unmanned underwater and air vehicles.

For instance, RE2 is adapting its ground-based electromechanical manipulation technology for use in a marine environment. The company currently has two programs in development for the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research: an inflatable Underwater Dual Manipulator (UDMI) system and an electro-mechanical Underwater Dexterous Manipulation System for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Applications (DMEA). The UDMI and DMEA systems will provide EOD technicians with the same standoff capabilities that they use to operate on land to effectively address Waterborne Improvised Explosive Devices (WIEDs) and mines. One of the goals of these efforts is to apply interoperability standards, such as IOP, to allow for rapid integration into the Navy's existing underwater robot systems.

“Developing robotic technologies that keep individuals out of harm's way is paramount to the mission of RE2 Robotics,” says Pedersen. “Over the past year we have worked closely with the Navy to transition our expertise to underwater systems. By extending our manipulation capabilities into the submersible space, we are able to enter new markets, such as Offshore Oil and Gas, which rely on the safe inspection, maintenance and repair of underwater structures. Providing dexterous manipulation capabilities to this class of UUVs will open up a new realm of capabilities and applications for unmanned systems.”

The future of military robotics and unmanned systems is bright. For ground, air, and water applications, interoperability standards such as IOP will allow the Department of Defense to get the best technology into the hands of the warfighter and rapidly adapt as new capabilities emerge.

This article was written by Jennifer Brozak, Manager, Marketing Communications, RE2 Robotics (Pittsburgh, PA). For more information, Click Here.