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———————————————————————–10 Apr 12. Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) arrived in Afghanistan on January 12, 2012. Four of the SMSS vehicles were deployed to Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Army’s Project Workhorse Unmanned Ground Vehicle program. The vehicles are in-country for a four-month Military Utility Assessment (MUA). The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force, through the Robotics Technology Consortium, selected the Lockheed SMSS to deploy to Afghanistan. The largest autonomous vehicle ever to be deployed with infantry, the 11-foot-long (3.4 meters) SMSS can carry more than half-a-ton of a squad’s equipment on rugged terrain, easing the individual soldier’s burden, which can often exceed 130 lbs (59 kg). SMSS is designed to unburden users from heavy and dangerous gear, which is especially helpful over long walking distances since a Soldier’s mission load often exceeds 130 lbs (59 kg). Driverless systems don’t require extra personnel to control the vehicle, and without the vehicle, soldiers would have to carry all equipment on their backs. The size and maneuver/terrain capability of SMSS allow it to accompany foot soldiers many places they need to go. The four in-theater vehicles have been used in the opening weeks of operation for: Combat outpost resupply, Demolition materiel transport, Communications equipment & batteries, Infrastructure materials, such as fencing equipment and tools.
09 Apr 12. In the event of another disaster at a nuclear power plant, the first responders may not be humans but robots. They may not even look humanoid. The Pentagon’s research and development agency is to announce a competition on Tuesday to design specialized robots that can work in disaster zones while operating common tools and vehicles. And while such tasks may well inspire humanoid designs, roboticists say they may also lead to the robotic equivalent of the Minotaur — a hybrid creature that might have multiple arms and not just legs but treads. Rumors of the challenge have already set professional and amateur robot builders buzzing with speculation about possible designs and alliances. Aaron Edsinger, a founder of Meka Robotics in San Francisco, said he was speaking with fellow roboticists around the country and was considering a wide array of possible inspirations. (Source: AUVSI)
09 Apr 12. The auto industry has already developed all the technology necessary to create truly autonomous vehicles, Ford engineers claim. The reasons there aren’t driverless cars all over the road today is in part a cost issue — the sensors and automated intelligence required aren’t cheap — but mainly one of driver mindset. Your typical commuter isn’t quite ready to take the sizable leap from cruise control to completely automated driving. “There is no technology barrier from going where we are now to the autonomous car,” said Jim McBride, a Ford Research and Innovation technical expert who specializes in autonomous vehicle technologies. “There are affordability issues, but the big barrier to overcome is customer acceptance.” McBride said Ford has already built research vehicles with high-resolution omnidirectional cameras that can see the road and the cars surroundings far better than any driver with a few mirrors. Those vehicles also have scanning lasers that can model the world around it in 3-D. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications standards have been finalized that would allow cars not only to broadcast their location and speed to one another but also create ad hoc vehicular networks — hive minds that could coordinate the actions of thousands of automobiles on the roadway. (Source: AUVSI)
11 Apr 12. The Ukrainian BTR-3E1 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) delivered to the Royal Thai Army (RTA) excelled during the recently concluded Exercise Kocha Singa 2012 with the Singapore Ar