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25 Oct 2004. During AUSA, John Deere and iRobot unveiled the Military R-Gator(tm), an intelligent unmanned ground vehicle that will use off-the-shelf technology to autonomously perform dangerous and taxing missions. Until now, autonomous ground vehicles have been developed and built using custom technology on an individual basis, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Using available systems, John Deere and iRobot plan to begin pilot production of the R-Gator by mid-2005, with full production slated to begin by 2006. R-Gator(tm)

“This joint effort between John Deere and iRobot combines our legacy of rugged reliability and excellent performance in the field with iRobot’s extensive, proven military robotics expertise,” said Greg Doherty, Director, Product and Market Development, John Deere Worldwide Commercial & Consumer Equipment Division.

“Moreover, the fact that it will be available off-the-shelf will allow the R-Gator to be swiftly deployed to help keep soldiers out of harm’s way.” The Robotic Gator, or R-Gator as it is called, is built on the combat-proven John Deere M-Gator(tm) military utility vehicle platform, and enhanced with proven
iRobot military robotic controls and navigation and obstacle avoidance systems. The intelligent, durable and flexible R-Gator is designed to serve numerous important roles, including acting as an unmanned scout, “point man,” perimeter guard, pack/ammo/supply carrier and more for soldiers, marines and airmen.

The R-Gator is built with the robotic intelligence, durability and flexibility needed to handle numerous missions including: Performing unmanned reconnaissance both on- and off-road. The R-Gator can relay real-time video, sounds and sensor readings from a potentially hostile area without putting soldiers at risk. Automatically shuttling between rear supply points and forward operating positions, using either down-loaded GPS waypoints or waypoints collected dynamically during operations.
Conducting unmanned perimeter patrols. R-Gator can free soldiers from the dangerous routine of guarding perimeters, in addition to allowing soldiers to inspect sensitive areas, like pipelines, from miles away.
Following in soldiers’ footsteps carrying heavy backpacks, ammunition and supplies, reducing soldier fatigue and freeing them to focus on the mission at hand. The UK is believed to be looking at this capability.
Accommodating future payloads – R-Gator can be upgraded to perform hazardous Nuclear/Biological/Chemical, ChemRad and Explosive Ordnance Disposal missions.

“John Deere’s class of rugged military vehicles offers the ideal platform for our advanced robotics intelligence,” said Vice Admiral Joseph Dyer (U.S. Navy, Ret.), executive vice president and general manager of iRobot’s Government & Industrial Robotics division. “The R-Gator will be a great asset in helping develop the tactics and doctrine for unmanned vehicles in combat. It is the first of a new, smarter breed of military systems that capitalize on robotic intelligence to handle difficult and dangerous tasks. The goal is clear – to keep our military personnel out of harm’s way whenever we can.”

The R-Gator retains full manual operation capability – with a single switch, the operator can transition from autonomous or tele-operated modes to manual mode. When in autonomous mode, the operator can intervene and take control of the R-Gator at any time. The R-Gator features forward and aft Scanning Laser Radar sensors which detect obstacles and guide the system during leader-follower operations. Forward and rear cameras provide a continuous video stream to the Operator Control Unit.

The R-Gator is based on the combat-proven John Deere M-Gator, a rugged, reliable drop-zone utility vehicle that deployed with the first units to see action in the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Thousands of M-Gators have now been delivered

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