Use of UGV in warzone

Modern war zone is full of hazards but military commanders are often worried about the safety of their soldiers and how effectively the operational readiness can be ensured without compromising the swiftness of the battle formations.

Indeed, technology is ensuring that unmanned ground vehicles can be handy and operate in most lethal battlefield conditions without any pause despite the fact that it can be targeted by the enemy cross fire and aerial assault.

These days military and industrial researchers try to use more and more automatic applications in practice. They have lots of reasons why they want to use them. Few times later one can use robots in different types of jobs, and in different missions.

Such kind of missions can be very dangerous, boring and/or monotonous. That means users will use robots in the air, on the land, under the water, and also in space both for governmental, and non-governmental applications and purposes.

Nowadays a lot of institutes, factories, hospitals and military facilities use different types of UGVs. These robots are not only used inside the facilities. One can meet them in different areas outside the buildings. This multipurpose UGVs causes different and unexpected events during their operations.

The UGV is a vehicle which operates on the ground without human presence on its board. These kinds of robots can be used for many applications which may be D3-ones (DirtyDull- Dangerous) for the Human (assault, defence, minesweeper etc).

The UGVs use different types of sensors and cameras which send signals to its control stations. The new generation of UGVs uses artificial intelligence (AI) technologies during their work.

The first UGVs were built in the 1930s and the early 1940s by the USSR (Soviet Union). The name of this UGV was Teletank.

It was a series of wireless remotely controlled unmanned tanks. This tank was used in the Winter War during the Second World War (1939-1941).

Worth mentioning that not only the Soviet Union has used remotely controlled machines. The British army used a radio controlled prototype of MATILDA II in 1941. This kind of tank got the Black Prince code name.

During the Second World War not only the allies tried to use remote controlled weapons.

In 1942 the Nazis developed a new small remote controlled tank. The tank’s name was GOLIATH.

The GOLIATH was controlled by cable and it carried approximately 60 kg explosive material. The Nazis had more weapons which are the ancestors of the modern ballistic rockets.

They were the V1 and V2 rockets. As one can see, these kinds of robots were controlled by humans with cable or with using radio technology.

The focus of mobile robotic research was moving towards the discipline of artificial intelligence (AI). The first “modern” mobile robot was SHAKEY, which was developed in the late 1960s. It was a prototype robot made by DARPA.

Changing scenario

Since the war is becoming unmanned in its very nature, UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) systems, which inherently are more flexible when it comes to weight and locomotion than UAVs, may start to see a trend common throughout modern warfare.

For example, like the Humvee or the M113 APC, they could become simple base systems on which to mount a variety of weapon, sensor, and utility systems on.

On the other hand as the cost of UASs (Unmanned Aerial Systems) goes down, the use of drones to extend the distance between manned aircraft and their adversaries. And of course the application of military UAVs and UGVs also has commercial applications.

In a recent invention, made by the Estonian defence company Milrem, the Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System (THeMIS) shows that simple solutions can also be the most promising.

What amount to two tracks and a platform between them, the THeMIS runs on two engines-an electric engine in one track, and a diesel in the other-which allow it to change fuel sources, and perhaps also muffle engine noise.

As the name implies, the biggest strength of the robot is that the empty space between tracks can be outfitted for multiple roles.

Growth of UGV

Although defence sector is leading the innovation in UGV segment, the factors that are influencing the growth of the market are escalating demand from non-defence applications such as homeland security and commercial purposes.

The optimal performance of the unmanned ground vehicles and reduced risk of human lives are also major driving factors for the UGV market.

The constraints for the market are low battery life which impacts on the vehicles durability and the strength of frequency modulations which can be altered.

UGVs encounter payload problems pooled with limited space, thus distressing the power supply of the batteries which affects their operational range by hindering the supply of onboard accessible energy.

However, the increasing demand for automated systems and demand for increased operational efficiency creates wider opportunities which need to be accomplished.

The major applications of UGV are in the defence sector where it assists the defence team by providing information, helping in spotting the team during combat operations, observing the surroundings. It also helps in supplying ammunition to the soldiers, detecting explosives during combat operations.

Some of the major players in this market are Northrop Grumman Corporation, Cobham PLC, General Dynamics Corporation, Oshkosh Corporation, Aselsan A.S, Dok-Ing Ltd, Nexter Group, G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems Ltd, Qinetiq Group PLC and Irobot Corporation.

Indeed, the single greatest tragedy of war is death. Images of dead and wounded soldiers returning from combat should give pause to policymakers considering military force.

Yet emerging technology will soon provide commanders with options to limit the amount of troops in harm’s way. While war will never allow for soldiers to fight outside of harm’s way, continuing research in unmanned vehicles stands to drastically decrease the number of soldiers who enter an enemy’s line of sight.

In May, 2014, Lockheed Martin demonstrated that a convoy could successfully navigate through a city with only one manned vehicle in the lead.

Israel also conducted research in unmanned vehicles and already fielded such a vehicle capable of a variety of missions including convoy and perimeter security.

Thus far, unmanned ground vehicles hardly qualify as a dominant trend in warfare, but as this new technology becomes operational it will gain popularity among military and political leaders as an attractive alternative to direct use of troops.

In the same way political and military leaders see airpower as a low cost alternative to ground troops, so will they see the use of unmanned vehicles.

Before unmanned ground vehicles become operational, the US military and government should address several questions.

First, to what extent can vehicles replace people? Certainly a machine cannot build rapport with and gather intelligence from the residents of a village.

The military should plan on how to incorporate these assets into the existing force structure and not let wishful thinking outweigh military realities.

The second important question is what the moral implications of unmanned vehicles are. UAV’s have raised enough moral issues, but what will it mean when the US broadens what it can accomplish militarily without putting as many soldiers in danger?

The use of unmanned vehicles runs the risk of making war too politically acceptable as well as decrease concern for civilian casualties and negative strategic outcomes from the use of force.

On the modern battlefield, there exists a wide variety of unmanned, autonomous vehicles, both in the air and on land filling a range of roles.

While Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) are used primarily for observation roles, Unmanned Ground Vehicles serve a wide variety of roles ranging from surveillance, to acting as communication hubs, to more active roles such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).

In addition to such supporting roles, however, recent technologies have increased the capabilities of UGVs to include active striking roles: giving unmanned, semiautonomous vehicles the ability to inflict damage on enemy infrastructure, positions, and troops without placing friendly combatants in harm’s way.

One such vehicle, the PackBot, is manufactured by iRobot Corporation.

As UGV development advances at an ever-increasing rate, and the availability of technology to create fully autonomous vehicles draws near, one can see the prospect of regarding the use of this technology.

While working in the defence robotics industry, one may think of creating a fully autonomous robotic technology capable of making intelligent decisions, and making the decision to kill enemies.

Due to the nature of this technology, it would likely be a request from the United States Department of Defense to make a versatile UGV as the demand for such technology is growing.

Although this would appear on the surface to be an excellent opportunity to keep American soldiers out of harm’s way on the battlefield, and become wealthy in the process, the creation of a robot with the intelligence to make real time life-or-death decisions is a rife with ethical and moral issues.

Automated technology

For the most part, the technologies required to make fully automated, armed UGVs already exist due to the existence of both armed, human controlled robots, and unarmed, fully autonomous robots.

With only minor improvements to the technologies behind both varieties, enabling them to run together, and the development of software and sensors to recognize, identify, engage, and neutralize hostiles, the first models of such autonomous combat robots could appear on the proving grounds in a time span of under two years.

The iRobot PackBot and similar combat robots have proven their worth in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan where they served in primarily explosive ordnance disposal roles.

Of the 12,000 unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, more than 3,000 were the PackBot model manufactured by hand in a small scale assembly line.

These automated bomb technicians are credited with defusing tens of thousands of improvised explosive devices, thereby saving hundreds, if not thousands of friendly soldiers.

Looking at these statistics, the true merit of militarily capable unmanned ground vehicles becomes apparent.

With such widespread success in supporting, non-combat roles, it can be theorized with some level of certainty that the employment of UGVs with full combat capabilities would move to further reduce casualties incurred by American and friendly troops in the most dangerous combat roles.

Over 60 percent of Coalition casualties in the Iraqi and Afghan Wars occurred at first contact, which reinforces the potential benefits of combatant robots to perform building entries and other dangerous tactical maneuvers.

With a mechanized, fully automated point man in every squad, the battlefield could someday be made less dangerous for those serving on the front lines.

While the effective use of autonomous, combat capable UGVs in warfare would defend and reduce casualties among the frontline soldiers of the United States and other allies, it would most definitely cause the loss of life among the enemy.

Even with the best technology, however, there is the potential for accidents to occur.

No screening process is perfect and, as a result, there is the distinct chance the UGV may incorrectly target an innocent person, whether they match a description of hostiles or are registered by other sensors to be a threat.

This also raises the issue of whether the death of one innocent person is worth the lives of potentially dozens of military personnel.

New strategy

The US Army’s Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) has developed a new capability with a navigation alternative to GPS. In recent tests, JPADS were dropped from planes, and immediately determined their location using optical sensors to compare local terrain with commercial satellite imagery.

The new system demonstrated navigation to its intended point, using nothing but imagery to guide it.

JPADS, largely guided by GPS, has already proven its importance in supplying troops with necessary materials and equipment, relying less on vulnerable convoys.

However, the new JPADS also works with little knowledge of the aircraft’s location at the drop point.

Dropping critical supplies from the air has allowed the US military to rely less on easily-ambushed truck convoys and helicopter resupply.

Exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ambushed convoys resulted in more than 3,000 causalities in Afghanistan and Iraq through 2007.

JPADS has proven to be an important tool in the Army’s logistics chain in many scenarios to supply troops with material and equipment in adverse terrain and remote locations when ground lines of communication are not possible or deemed too high a risk.

“This is a huge step forward for aerial resupply,” said Chris Bessette, Draper’s JPADS program manager.

“By enabling the system to operate using imagery alone when dropped as high as 25,000 feet above Mean Sea Level and upwards of 20 miles away from the target depending on winds, we can ensure that JPADS is even more versatile so troops receive supplies like fuel, ammunition, food, and water in the safest manner possible.”

Although it tends look to the sky, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) came back down to Earth to develop RoBattle, an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that may soon be tasked with the type of risky missions typically assigned to foot soldiers.

IAI’s UGV is built to be maneuverable, dynamic, and tough. Six wheels with independent suspension enable RoBattle to scale obstacles, such as rubble and small walls, to access areas that would typically be out of reach for other robots.

A modular robotic kit allows the machine to be modified and adapted with remote vehicle control, navigation, and real time mapping abilities, depending on its operational needs.

RoBattle can operate independently or as support unit for convoy protection, decoy, ambush, attack, intelligence, surveillance, or armed reconnaissance, according to IAI.

It even dons a lightweight remote weapon station called Pitbull, which includes a range of sensors that help the robot “see” in daytime, night time, and limited visibility operations.

The RoBattle system is based on IAI’s vast experience and heritage in development and manufacturing of unmanned systems including unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).

With the modular ‘robotic kit’ methodology, designed to meet specific customer requirements, RoBattle is one of the most advanced combat, maneuvering, ground robotics in the market. said IAI’s Deputy general manager of ground robotics systems, Meir Shabtai, in a statement.

RoBattle is the newest in a line of UGV developed by IAI and other military organizations around the world.

IAI already offers robots such as Sahar, an IED detection and routing clearing machine, and Guardium, a UGV specifically designed for border security and protection of assets. Meanwhile, inside the Warfighting Lab at Quantico, Virginia, the US Marine Corps is develop battlefield UGVs that operate in teams with flying drones.

Regarding fields of the possible UGV applications they can be classified into four groups:
•    Reconnaissance robots
•    Prevention robots
•    Logistic robots
•    Assault robots

UGV variations

These groups perfectly describe the four main categories of UGVs. But this classification and segmentation cannot be used to evaluate maintenance and operations of the robots.

The basic maintenance steps at the UGVs are the same as in the maintenance of a normal machine.

The large scale diversity of the UGVs allows users use robots in different situations, environments and in more and more dangerous projects (e.g. reconnaissance missions at Fukushima nuclear power plant’s radiation, monitoring volcano eruptions etc.).

This is the reason why one could find uncertainty in the maintenance and operation methods. There are many different types of the loads affecting robot application, and their behaviour.

The most important of those loads being considered for evaluation of the robot operation could be the followings:
•    high temperature loads
•    loads from changing humidity
•    surface roughness loads; - weather conditions
•    extra loads on the UGVs chassis  
•    damages of the UGVs’ mechanical or electrical components.

High temperature loads can lead to irreversible degradation of the technical status of the UGV. There are many missions famous for that kind of external loads, e.g. monitoring volcano eruptions.

The climate itself can change the technical parameters of the dynamical systems, e.g. resistances and conductances are in high dependence of the temperature and humidity, as well.

The surface roughness determines the quality of the robot navigation and, derives energy consumption of the electrical servo actuators applied on-board.

Besides extra needs in relation of the electrical energy consumption of the robots if there is a meaningful surface roughness the robot movement itself can generate mechanical extra loads on robot frame (chassis) being considered during robot design phase.

Logistic robots which are used mostly in the same environment with the same loads get a periodic load. Assault and Prevention robots are used in different types of environment and they always work in different missions.

Reconnaissance robots can be part of both groups. Users can use them in war theatre applications generating aperiodic loads on the robot, or they can be used in facility guarding operations generating mostly the periodic loads.

The main load factors were determined and defined. The aperiodic loads of the electrical batteries can lead to failures, shortfalls in electrical energy supply system during robot operation.

Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-SerbianAmerican mechanical and electrical engineer who open new dimensions for automation of the technical processes.

Tesla invented the first polyphase induction motor and the first electrical motor to run on alternating current.

In the middle of the 20th century the vehicle industry put a lot of energy into robot development. A lot of robot manufacturer companies were born in this period, like FANUC, KUKA, ABB (Asea Brown Boveri).

The first robots could work on a known way that they got in their program before the first use. In the early years, robots didnot use any artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Robots were used only for highly precise and/or monotonous operations. Latter robots were used not only by car manufacturers. The developers understood advantages of the application of robot technology.

Different kinds of industrial areas started to use them like logistics, or chemical industry. Another important thing about the robots was the costs of the production at the factories.

If the companies use robots, they can produce their goods at lower prices in a better quality and, the same time to reduce the amount of losses.

If to analyze industrial production supported by robots, or any other kind of activity executed by robots one also have to think about the HR (Human Resources) costs.

When companies use robots in the manufacturing, or in the logistic areas one can find lower costs of hiring, training, working clothes, tools and any other personal costs.

Nevertheless, military robotic missions will depend how fast and effectively it can be accomplished using sophisticated technologies.

The use of UGVs will also grow as the market for hitech robots which can pilot such vehicles for critical missions are still the first choice for battlefield commanders.