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Robots of the Air Force

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Air Force Robot

Troops stand back as the Scout robotic vehicle fires pepper spray. The robot is also armed with an M-16A2 rifle which is controlled from a remote location.

Official USAF Photo
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FL -- Pentagon officials and guests were treated to a demonstration of the remote detection challenge and response, or REDCAR, initiative June 23.

REDCAR uses unmanned robotic platforms to provide perimeter defense of Air Force bases and forward-deployed units.

“With REDCAR we can integrate a family of robots to secure an airfield and take the warfighter out of the initial line of attack,” said Capt. Adolfo Meana, chief of the Force Protection Battlelab’s concepts division at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. “The forces are kept in reserve to tactically move against the enemy. We put the robots in danger first and save troops’ lives.”

Operators control the robots from a safe location, such as an armored vehicle, using a laptop computer. They are able to manage many robots at the same time and can even pass control between operators.

Battlelab and Air Force Research Laboratory workers developed the REDCAR family of robotic vehicles.

The proof of concept demonstration included three robotic vehicles. The first was Scout, a rough-terrain vehicle that travels at up to 20 mph using preprogrammed navigation and obstacle avoidance. The Scout controller can issue voice commands to people it encounters through its Phraselator.

“Scout has up to 57 pre-programmed languages and can issue such police phrases as ‘halt, drop your weapon,’ etcetera” Captain Meana said. “However, we hope controllers will be able to speak directly through the Phraselator in the future.”

The Mobile Detection and Response System is another robot. It provides area surveillance and detects threats, with Scout acting as an interceptor.

The third robotic vehicle, called Matilda, is a small-scale, tracked vehicle that can be carried on MDARS. Matilda provides reconnaissance in limited-access areas, including under vehicles, aircraft, and inside buildings.

“The challenge is getting all the robots to work together,” said Walt Waltz, the laboratory’s chief of robotics research at Tyndall AFB, Fla. “Communication between the robots is key.”

During the demonstrations here, all three robots demonstrated scenarios. In one scenario, Scout detected and confronted an intruder trying to gain unauthorized access to the flightline. After the intruder refused to obey commands issued by the controller, he was disabled with a pepper spray system mounted on Scout. Another scenario featured Scout and MDARS detecting and defending against a guerrilla force trying to attack the base. During the attack, Scout used a precision-targeted M-16A2 rifle controlled from a remote location. Toward the end of the attack, Matilda was released from MDARS to search for attackers hiding in culverts.

Staff Sgt. Miguel Jimenez, assigned to the 325th Security Forces Squadron at nearby Hurlburt Field, is excited about the new technology.

“It will help out a lot having the robotic platforms alerting us to possible hostilities. It will provide an immediate visual assessment before we get there and we can use the weapon if necessary,” Sergeant Jimenez said.

Above article by Tammie D. Erazo, Air Armament Center Public Affairs

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