Future bomb disposal with leaner laser-armed robots

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight techs may soon use lasers to dispose of explosive devices, said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Schott, superintendent of Eglin’s 96th Civil Engineer Group.

“The next step in our technology — that’s actually been proven, and we’re just maturing it now — is lasers,” Schott said during a Nov. 17 interview.

“The problem of why it took so long to mature is the amount of wattage needed in a laser to disrupt an ordnance item causes so much heat, it required too much air conditioning,” he said. “But they’ve got it down small enough now where the laser will disrupt an ordnance item and not require so much cooling.”

The plan is to position the lasers “on top of an MRAP,” or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, he said.

“We’re finalizing the self-target part of [the lasers] where you don’t have to zoom in and target each [IED], but [that] it will do that kind of for you,” Schott said. “The longest part is burning through the ordnance, and the idea is to burn through the outer case of it, and get the inside to not detonate, but to burn out.”

The US Air Force is working with RE2 Robotics, which is developing ​a robotics system that would inspect ​an airfield for unexploded IEDs, ordnance and other debris in the aftermath of a hostile airstrike or attack, eliminate any dangers, and repair the damage.

Robots have only “just begun” to advance, made smaller to fit through doorways and climb stairs — something EOD techs have wanted for quite some time, officials said.

But now that these advancements are here, the technological enhancements, especially for combat robots, have gone through the roof, “especially with portability,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland, 96th EOD Flight craftsman.

RE2 Robotics is working on other advanced robotics

Advanced Manipulators onto a Widely-fielded Less than 20-lb. Robotic System

LIFELINE – Wounded Combat Casualty Extraction and Evacuation

The goal of the LIFELINE project, which is funded by the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, is to develop automated technologies that can assist combat medics in maneuvering, treating, and evacuating wounded soldiers under extremely hostile conditions. The combat medic is one of the most dangerous responsibilities in modern warfare. In the course of tending to casualties, the medic is often wounded or killed. The U.S. Army has long sought robotics technologies that can make the medic’s job safer and more efficient. The LIFELINE project aims to develop a robotic payload for an advanced autonomous ground vehicle that can assist the medic with attending to combat casualties.

BESS – Biomechanical Exoskeleton Simulator System

The goal of the Biomechanical Exoskeleton Simulator System (BESS) project, funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, is to develop a simulation environment that will effectively model both a robotic exoskeleton and a human operator and predict muscle forces and stresses, joint loading, metabolic load, and injury risk. BESS will be an integrated simulator system to model the interaction between a robotic exoskeleton and the human user and the effect of the use of such assistive devices during load-carriage. This system will enable more detailed and better design of new devices that have a significant effect on human performance by directly modeling the interaction between the operator and the device and identifying potential injury mechanisms and issues before large-scale deployment of any new device. BESS will accurately model the interaction between a robotic exoskeleton and the human operator by leveraging and extending existing high-fidelity open-source robotics and biomechanical simulators. In particular, BESS will characterize the injury risk and the forces and torques on the human musculoskeletal system for soldiers carrying loads with exoskeleton assistance.

ARM – Autonomous Robotic Manipulation

The DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation – Software (ARM-S) program seeks to advance the state of the art in autonomous dual-arm manipulation. RE2 is the primary integrator and maintainer of the multiple robot platforms that were provided to various research teams around the country. The highly sophisticated robotic platforms consist of two off-the-shelf 7-DOF arms and 3-fingered hands with wrist-mounted force/torque sensors along with pressure sensors in the palm and finger-tips, a high-resolution color camera, stereo cameras, flash lidar 3D camera, two head-mounted microphones, and an innovative 4-DOF neck to allow the software to position and orient the sensor package as desired. Along with integrating the hardware components, RE2 developed a ROS-compatible software interface, operator control unit, and data logging capabilities. Additionally, RE2 has developed higher-level software to have the robot platform perform various manipulation tasks for trade shows and museum exhibits.

ARM Outreach

The purpose of this project was to develop, integrate and deliver a complete simulator of the DARPA ARM robot, a humanoid two-armed robot, that models not only the robot itself but sensor data generated by the robot while interacting with the world around it. The system provides the user with a fully functional simulated version of the robot that can be used to develop novel manipulation techniques in simulation which can then be tested on a real research-level, state-of-the-art robotics system. The main objective of creating this system was to provide researchers and the general public the opportunity to utilize a state-of-the-art system even when their own resources are not able to provide that capability. The goal is to effectively “crowd-source” advanced robotic manipulation research. RE2 developed the simulator, including custom interfaces to the underlying physics simulation that exactly matched the behavior of the real robot.

SOURCES- RE2 Robotics, Air Force Times, Defense Technology, DARPA