Lockheed Martin’s (LM) Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) has passed a final round of tests at Fort Riley, Kansas, before scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. The system, which turns a six-wheeled amphibious ATV into a robotic packhorse and charging station, has been subjected to a variety of simulated warzone environments in both remote controlled and fully autonomous modes”
Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) is a robotic platform based on a turbo-diesel powered, high mobility six wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV) capable of carrying 600lbs (272 kg) of payload. Current platforms are utilizing a commercial platform converted for a surrogate SMSS vehicle. Future versions will utilize specially designed platforms, optimized for the SMSS mission.
The SMSS can carry a squad’s food supplies, water, batteries, heavy weapons, ammunition, survival gear and can even accommodate casualties. Besides transporting up to 600lbs (272 kg) of gear, the SMSS also provides two to four kilowatts of power, and is capable of charging 146 batteries within ten hours.
LM’s SMSS technology frees the soldier of this payload but unlike the MULE, which LM does not see as being a direct competitor, the robotic control system employed here gives the option of a number of control modes including remote via the control unit, voice activated control and fully autonomous. In autonomous mode, the SMSS uses a 3D scanning LIDAR to navigate its immediate surroundings while following either the optical form of a certain soldier or predetermined way-points (which can be set by the operator or can be automatically dropped by the SMSS during allowing a trace back mode)
The SMSS takes the load off the soldier’s back, reducing fatigue currently experienced by those on the front line. The average warfighter these days is expected to carry around 100lbs (45 kg) on their back – this is like piggy-backing a teenager around the battlefield. Not only are fieldpacks heavy but they can also be cumbersome, reducing a soldier’s ability to respond in combat.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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