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14 May 07. DARPA narrows Urban Challenge field. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected 53 teams that will advance to the next round of its robotic-vehicle competition. The agency’s ongoing vehicle challenges are intended to encourage the development of robotic ground vehicles that can operate autonomously on the battlefield, reducing the risk to military personnel, according to DARPA. In the upcoming round of competition, vehicles will take part in the event’s first challenge, requiring them to operate in traffic. During the round, DARPA will conduct site visits around the country to evaluate the safety performance of the 53 qualifying vehicles on a test course that will feature moving traffic and a four-way intersection. Based on the site visits, DARPA will pick 30 semi-finalists to take part in the National Qualification; the event is scheduled for Oct. 21-31. The agency will announce the 30 semi-finalist teams, as well as the location chosen for the event, on Aug. 10. On that date, DARPA also will announce the location for the final contest, a one-day battle on Nov. 3 called the Urban Challenge. Vehicles will be required to complete a test course designed to simulate the challenges of conducting military supply missions in an urban environment. The course will require vehicles to steer around obstacles, maneuver successfully through traffic circles and merge safely into moving traffic. The top three vehicles completing the course within six hours will win DARPA prizes of $2m, $1m and $500,000, according to the agency. This year’s event is DARPA’s third robotic-vehicle challenge. Fifteen vehicles competed in the first contest in March 2004, but none completed the 142-mile desert course. In the second competition in October 2005, four vehicles completed a 132-mile desert course within the 10-hour limit. DARPA awarded a $2m prize to the 2005 winning vehicle, an entrant from Stanford University named “Stanley.” (Source: GCN)

16 May 07. The army will soon use made-in-Malaysia unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct surveillance of the country’s land and sea borders. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that once a contract is signed between the army and the manufacturer, the UAV would be upgraded to meet military specifications. Three local companies – Composites Technology Research Malaysia(CTRM), Systems Consultancy Sdn Bhd (SCS) and Ikramatic Sdn Bhd – which formed a partnership called Unmanned Systems Technology Sdn Bhd (UST), manufacture the UAV. Najib said the Malaysian-made UAV, which was designed and built by UST was a pride to the country. (Source: Shephard)

May 07. The Defense Ministry plans to spend 6bn yen (about US$49.9m; €37m) to develop unmanned underwater and surface vehicles to be used to prevent suicide attacks against ships and watch for guerrillas trying to enter Japan, a news report said Monday. The ministry plans to request 2.6bn yen (US$21.6m; €16m) for next fiscal year’s budget beginning April 2008, Japan’s largest daily Yomiuri reported. A total cost of the study is estimated at 6 billion yen over the next six years, the report said. The unmanned ocean vehicles will reduce risks to humans on dangerous missions and will eventually be used to chase armed spy ships, conduct undersea research and watch for guerrillas and special forces trying to enter Japan, Yomiuri said, without saying where it got the information from. Defense Ministry officials said unmanned vehicles have been under study since 2006. (Source: Shephard)

May 07. Global Marine Systems Limited, a leading provider of subsea marine engineering, has launched a new Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) training facility designed to meet increasing demand for experienced ROV-trained personnel within the subsea industry. The ICMA (International Maritime Contractors Association)-aligned courses and certificate of competency scheme are run from Global Marine’s Portland Depot and in the surrounding waters com

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