RDS_Oct 2010_Effinger - The US Army Ground Robotics Strategy

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The US Army Ground Robotics
Strategy: Evolution and Outputs
Robert Craig Effinger III, Colonel, US Army, US Army Capabilities Integration Center – Training and
Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, describes the evolution and outputs of a confederated Army robotics
strategy that is the result of Congressional, Department of Defense, and senior leader direction

     n the late 1990s, the US Congress recognised the potential of          Strategy that focuses on 32 Universal Joint and Army tasks that robots
     robotics. With the support of Senator John Warner, Congress set        could perform to support the US Army’s 1.1 million soldiers. The
     a goal, through the National Defense Authorization Act (FY2001,        strategy assessed the feasibility of robots performing these tasks in
HR 4205, Section 217) for the Armed Forces to achieve the fielding of        terms of cost, complexity and time to produce a prototype. The tasks
unmanned, remotely controlled technology, such that by 2010, one-third      were divided into five mission-functional areas: logistics, security,
of the operational deep-strike aircraft of the Armed Forces is unmanned,    engineering, medical and maintenance.
and by 2015, one-third of the operational ground-combat vehicles of the       Based upon these criteria, five tasks were rated most-feasible
Armed Forces are unmanned.                                                  robotic solutions:
  Since 2001, the US Army has learned that unmanned systems increase           ■ Logistics – supply yard lift and short movement operations
efficiencies in repetitive tasks and enhance operational effectiveness by       ■ Security – perimeter security of military installations, air-
removing soldiers from harm’s way. Unmanned systems, particularly in              fields, ammunition storage areas, chemical weapons storage
Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and neutralisation, have              areas
saved soldiers’ lives in a number of theatres and will continue to do so.      ■ Security – remotely scan personnel and vehicles entering
Recognising this, the US Congress directed, in its 2007 National Defense          restricted areas
Authorization Act, that: “The Secretary of Defense shall develop a policy      ■ Medical – conduct pharmacy operations
to be applicable throughout the Department of Defense, on research, de-        ■ Medical – perform tele-medicine/surgery
velopment, test and evaluation, procurement and operation of unmanned
systems.” In particular this policy should include:                         Another 20 tasks were rated as potentially feasible robotic solutions:
   ■ an identification of mission and mission requirements,                    ■ Logistics – cargo packaging and pallet assembly
       including mission requirements for the military depart-                ■ Logistics – supply warehousing: inventory management,
       ments and joint mission requirements for which unmanned                   prioritisation, retrieval and preparation for movement
       systems may replace manned systems; and                                ■ Logistics – waterborne discharge of equipment – ship to
   ■ a preference for unmanned systems in acquisition pro-                       shore
       grammes for new systems, including a requirement under                 ■ Security – detect, identify, assess, report and provide warn-
       any such programme for the development of a manned                        ing in the event of hazardous material spill
       system for a certification that an unmanned                             ■ Security – remove and clean up hazardous materials from
       system is incapable of meeting programme requirements.                    contaminated areas
                                                                              ■ Security – casualty evacuation
In response, the Office of the Secretary of Defense published an               ■ Engineering – conduct terrain recon for traffic-ability and
Unmanned Systems Roadmap (2009-2034) which specified four mission                 locations of barriers/obstacles/mines
areas where unmanned systems could improve gaps in operational                ■ Engineering – overcome and report obstacles
capabilities. These priorities are:                                           ■ Engineering – conduct breach operations: suppress, obscure
   ■ reconnaissance and surveillance;                                            and secure breach lanes
   ■ target identification and designation;                                    ■ Engineering – move and emplace materiel, construct ob-
   ■ counter-mine explosive ordnance disposal; and                               stacles, establish security
   ■ chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive recon-            ■ Engineering – mark, record and report obstacles
      naissance.                                                              ■ Engineering – conduct firefighting operations
The roadmap provides an overview of current capabilities and a vision for     ■ Engineering – earthmoving for airfields, Forward Observation
future development with the focus for future systems revolving around the        Bases etc
advancement of autonomy.                                                      ■ Medical – recover battlefield casualties (wounded and killed)
                                                                              ■ Medical – dispose of medical waste
Robotics strategy                                                             ■ Maintenance – maintain and repair facilities
In 2009, the Tank Automotive Research and Development Command                 ■ Maintenance – perform diagnostic/preventative mainte-
and the Army Capabilities Integration Center published a Robotics                nance checks

                                                                                   DEFENCE C A PA BILIT Y PROGR A M MES: L A ND

  ■   Maintenance – perform vehicle recovery/wrecker functions                   The US Army is emphasising
  ■   Maintenance – deliver and control repair parts
  ■   Maintenance – perform advanced manufacturing tasks,                        universally trainable systems to
      such as robotic welding and machining
                                                                                 minimise training time
A further seven tasks were rated as near-term infeasible robotic solutions:
   ■ Logistics – surface cargo transport and delivery of equip-
      ment and supplies using logistics convoys
   ■ Logistics – refuelling (wholesale and retail)
   ■ Logistics – crane and lift operations
   ■ Logistics – robotic re-arming
   ■ Logistics – soldier sustainability
   ■ Medical – provision of battlefield first aid, such as tourni-
      quets, splints, shots, IV drips
   ■ Maintenance – perform tele-maintenance
      (remote mechanic)

US Robotics Strategy White Paper
The US Robotics Strategy White paper highlights doctrinal, organisational,
training, materiel and leader development considerations to enhance the
integration of robotics into the force.

The Army continues to gain valuable experience through its campaign
of learning. For example, when used with Unmanned Air Systems
and combined arms teams, ground robotics can enhance dismounted
effectiveness in counter-IED, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance
and tunnel exploitation operations. In addition, when integrated into the
mission command network, robots can facilitate dismounted movements-
to-contact in complex environments. Furthermore, they can enable              Small unit operations in an urban environment with Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle
freedom-of-manoeuvre, help develop the situation, and when necessary,
assist with the discriminated application of firepower.                        will train units during the reset-train phase of the Army Force Generation
                                                                              model – before deployment in an operational environment. As the
Organisation                                                                  integration of robotics throughout the army matures, the Army will
The US Army will synchronise unmanned technologies with manned                integrate unmanned system training in the live, virtual and constructive
systems as appropriate to maximise operational effectiveness in               training network.
its formations. There may also be some efficiency associated with
incorporating robotics into Army formations. To date, organisational design   Materiel
has not been affected, but this may change as more, and larger, robots        The US Army is analysing potential platform trades as they relate to
are fielded.                                                                   system design, training and life-cycle costs. It is also emphasising
                                                                              platform modularity, interoperability, and reliability standards to foster
Training                                                                      flexibility and minimise logistical demands. To keep pace with technology,
The US Army is emphasising universally trainable systems to minimise          plans exist to incrementally field unmanned systems to Brigade Combat
training time and support understanding across the force. In the future, it   Teams on a two-year capability package basis.


Leader Development                                                            systems are not available. Future, more capable, systems should enable
Leaders will be responsible. They will learn employment principles            manned-unmanned teaming operations.
through collective and capability package training. They will integrate         The following unmanned systems’ required functional capabilities are
robotics into decentralised operations, yet remain in-the-loop and take       outlined in the ICD. In short, they must fulfil the following functions:
responsibility for their actions.                                                ■ Intelligence – support a layered network of manned-
                                                                                    unmanned capabilities to enable persistent, all-weather,
Personnel                                                                           all-terrain, multi-disciplined situational awareness of the
The US Army will optimise man-machine interfaces to minimise training/              operating environment
operational complexity and mitigate risk. The unit-focused, deliberate,          ■ Fires – assist in planning, development and execution of
capability package fielding model focuses collective training when needed.           lethal/non-lethal engagements, direct/indirect fires and
Conducted during the reset-train phase of the Army Force Generation                 target identification
cycle, this model should minimise redundant institutional training               ■ Protection – provide enhanced security (when teamed with
requirements across the force.                                                      manned systems) of fixed and semi-mobile/mobile forces,
                                                                                    as well as battlefield casualty extraction/transport and
Facilities                                                                          security operations by enabling 360-degree hemispherical
Presently, there are no unique facility requirements other than sufficient           protection
warehouse, shelf, workbench, lighting and binning space to support               ■ Mission Command/C2 – support the selective extension of
maintenance operations. In the future, though, unique facilities and                the network from the tactical edge to the commander
security requirements may be necessary to adequately store larger vehicles       ■ Movement and Manoeuvre – support assured mobility,
and advanced electronics.                                                           freedom of manoeuvre, reconnaissance and surveillance,
                                                                                    manned-unmanned teaming and reduced soldier loads
Outputs                                                                          ■ Sustainment – support sustainment tasks, functions and
In 2009, the Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center                   missions of supply, distribution and services – from home
appointed the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) at Fort Benning,                 station to forward-deployed locations
Georgia, as the Training and Doctrine Command’s lead for the integration
of all ground robotics plans, initiatives and articulation of requirements.   Autonomy
Because of this designation, the MCOE led the development of an               Relinquishing control or manipulation is based upon the robot’s reliability,
Unmanned Systems Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for the air, ground      the operating environment and the complexity of the task. As reliability
and maritime domains, and incorporated input from all the Centers of          increases so will autonomy levels. Leaders will nonetheless remain
Excellence throughout the Training and Doctrine Command. This ICD             in-the-loop, manage risk and be accountable. Risk associated with
provides the overarching strategy for the development of unmanned             armed operations will be mitigated through strict safeguards to prevent
systems across every warfighting function, and contains the required           unauthorised possession or control.
capabilities to support the Joint Force Commander ( JFC) through 2034. In
particular, these capabilities support the JFC’s situational understanding    Interoperability
and operational adaptability throughout the spectrum of conflict.              Sensors, communications and operations must be fused to minimise
Unmanned systems also serve as economy of force assets for targeting,         personnel oversight and enhance the common operational picture.
fires and force-protection operations. They provide standoff capabilities      Unmanned systems must be interoperable, not only between each
for several warfighting functions and flexible options when manned              other, but with manned systems and the mission command network.
                                                                              Mission-specific payloads (Intelligence, lethality, network extension,
                                                                              and sustainment) should be modular and interchangeable. The
                                                                              message protocols must interface with other platforms, sensors and
     Sensors, communications and                                              communication devices.

     operations must be fused to                                              Simulation study results
                                                                              A recent tactical simulation in complex terrain concluded that UGVs
     minimise personnel oversight                                             increase a small unit’s situational awareness and ability to engage
                                                                              outside normal line-of-sight. Significantly, key benefits were noted in
     and enhance the common                                                   the following areas:
                                                                                 ■ Increased unit’s ability to engage enemy (non line-of-sight)
     operational picture                                                         ■ Improved friendly casualties by 57 per cent (enhanced post-
                                                                                    combat effectiveness)

48         RUSI DEFENCE SYSTEMS 2010
                                                                                        DEFENCE C A PA BILIT Y PROGR A M MES: L A ND

Evolution of Joint (US Army and USMC) Ground Robotics
A graphic depiction of the evolution and operational employment of ground robotics since 2004

 2004                      2005                       2006                       2007                    2008                      2010
 162 systems               1,800 systems              4,000 systems              5,000 systems           6,000 system              3,659 systems

 No single vendor could Robot’s proven ability                                   Special forces robot                              Batteries – longer life,
                                                      Engineers and infantry                             Manoeuvre elements
 produce 162            to save lives                                            applications assessed                             standardised

                                                                                 Route clearance,
                                                      Route clearance,
                                                                                 explosive detection
                           Expansion beyond           explosive detection
 5 vendors multiple                                                              & development of
                           EOD (countermine           & develpoment of                                   Range extension           OEF – molbility
 configurations                                                                   robotic weapons
                           security)                  robotic weapons
                                                                                 payloads (lethal and
                           Agreements with
 Joint effort, EOD         Rapid Equipping                                                                                         Limited autonomy
                                                                                                         CBRNE detection
 focused                   and Army Material
                           Command (AMC)

                                                                                                         Persistant survelliance   Weaponisation

                                                                                                                                   Increased agility and
                                                                                                         More capable payloads

  ■   Increased enemy losses by 50 per cent                                      Robotic convoy
  ■   Reduced collateral damage                                                  Robotic logistic convoys are needed to move supplies and equipment in
                                                                                 dangerous environments, and these robots must navigate autonomously,
Robotics Rodeo (Fort Hood, Texas; 31 Aug ’09 – 4 Sep ’09)                        avoid hazards/obstacles and obey traffic rules.
III Corps and the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering
Command hosted a Robotics Rodeo at Fort Hood, Texas, to inform the               Persistent stare
robotics industry on war-fighter needs and allow them to demonstrate the          Robotic sensors are needed to conduct listening/observation post duties.
status of robotic technologies that could potentially fulfil the following four   The robots need to travel autonomously to/from observation posts,
operational needs:                                                               operate on station for 48 hours and communicate reports over the
    ■ victim-operated IED defeat;                                                mission command network.
    ■ robotic convoys;
    ■ persistent stare (long-term surveillance); and                             Robotic wingman
    ■ manned-unmanned teaming (robotic wingman).                                 A robotic wingman is needed to expand the sphere of influence of
                                                                                 a manned armoured vehicle by intelligently shadowing its moves. A
In all, more than 35 vendors demonstrated their latest capabilities in           wingman could detect, avoid and help develop the situation as necessary
an operationally relevant environment. They were paired with combat-             while remaining remote from the most dangerous area.
experienced soldiers who provided written assessments to the vendors
and to the Army’s leadership.                                                    Summary
                                                                                 The US Army continues to study the value and enhanced capability that
Victim-operated IED (VOIED) defeat                                               UGVs can bring to the theatre and is working with industry and academia
Robots are needed to defeat VOIEDs from safe distances. To be effective,         to develop the best capabilities. Through follow-on studies, analysis and
they must be capable of autonomous navigation, hazard marking,                   simulations, the US Army will integrate robotics in its formations where
removing debris and neutralisation when appropriate.                             most appropriate. ■


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