An unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is a vehicle that operates while in contact with the ground and without an onboard human presence. hey are the land counterparts of marine and aerial unmanned vehicles. All of these vehicles play integral roles in enhancing performance, efficiency, and safety across various applications, including military and civilian.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can travel long distances, have an excellent vantage for seeing large areas, and have easier lines of sight for communications. In many ways, aerial vehicles are easier to build, deploy, and control. Some jobs, however, must be done from the ground. UGVs have the potential to carry heavyweight payloads, to look inside buildings and under tree canopies, to persist for days, and to operate in all weather conditions. They also occupy ground: in some cases, the physical and visible presence of an armed unit on the ground is itself important.
Generally, the vehicle will have a set of sensors to observe the environment, and will either autonomously make decisions about its behavior or pass the information to a human operator at a different location who will control the vehicle through teleoperation. There are a wide variety of UGVs in use today. Predominantly these vehicles are used to replace humans in hazardous situations, such as handling explosives and in bomb disabling vehicles, where additional strength or smaller size is needed, or where humans cannot easily go. They are also used in industries such as agriculture, mining and construction.
UGV Technology requirements and trends
Based on its application, unmanned ground vehicles will generally include the following components: platform, sensors, control systems, guidance interface, communication links, and systems integration features.
Platform & Mobility
The platform can be based on an all-terrain vehicle design and includes the locomotive apparatus, sensors, and power source. Tracks, wheels, and legs are the common forms of locomotion. In addition, the platform may include an articulated body and some are made to join with other units. The mobility platform is highly application-dependent. Platforms for different mission applications will have to be designed based on differences in the mission requirements.
Until one specifies a mission time requirement in kilowatt-hours (kWh), power/energy technologies may not be of concern. Short-duration, low-energy mission requirements can be met now. However, there are problems with providing extended-duration communications, such as streaming video, for small UGVs. For high-energy missions, the following issues must be addressed: catalysts for reforming fuel, thermal rejection processes, stealth, and energy storage and replenishment.
A team of engineers and scientists from the Army Research Laboratory, supported by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, is focusing on developing new unmanned vehicle technologies to promote military modernization. To that end, the team is working on adapting an energy-efficient power generator, which has been used predominantly for household energy applications, for use on military vehicles. The research team is evaluating the efficacy of a Stirling cycle generator as a propulsion aid for autonomous ground vehicles. The generator is known for its virtually silent nature, high efficiency, low emissions, and long life. This effort marks the first time that a generator of this scale is being investigated as a possible UGV propulsion technology. The team has created a host of novel technologies to ready the generator for propulsion applications. These include a DC-DC power converter to convert electrical energy from the Stirling generator to the electrical bus of the vehicle.
Sensors & Payloads
A primary purpose of UGV sensors is navigation, another is environment detection. Sensors can include compasses, odometers, inclinometers, gyroscopes, cameras for triangulation, laser and ultrasound range finders, and infrared technology.bThe payloads are mission dependent and may include a geolocation sensor, Daytime and nighttime viewing cameras, Laser detection and ranging (LADAR) and multispectral sensors (providing digital representations of terrain and obstacles near the UGV), Foliage-penetrating sensors (to assess trafficability through grass and other light vegetation)
An autonomous UGV (AGV) is essentially an autonomous robot that operates without the need for a human controller on the basis of artificial intelligence technologies. The vehicle uses its sensors to develop some limited understanding of the environment, which is then used by control algorithms to determine the next action to take in the context of a human provided mission goal. This fully eliminates the need for any human to watch over the menial tasks that the AGV is completing.
A fully autonomous robot may have the ability to:
- Collect information about the environment, such as building maps of building interiors.
- Detect objects of interest such as people and vehicles.
- Travel between waypoints without human navigation assistance.
- Work for extended durations without human intervention.
- Avoid situations that are harmful to people, property or itself, unless those are part of its design specifications
- Disarm, or remove explosives.
- Repair itself without outside assistance.
A robot may also be able to learn autonomously. Autonomous learning includes the ability to:
- Learn or gain new capabilities without outside assistance.
- Adjust strategies based on the surroundings.
- Adapt to surroundings without outside assistance.
- Develop a sense of ethics regarding mission goals.
- Autonomous robots still require regular maintenance, as with all machines.
Some examples of autonomous UGV technology are: Vehicles developed for the DARPA Grand Challenge, Autonomous car, Multifunctional Utility/Logistics and Equipment vehicle and Crusher developed by CMU for DARPA
One of the most crucial aspects to consider when developing armed autonomous machines is the distinction between combatants and civilians. If done incorrectly, robot deployment can be detrimental. This is particularly true in the modern era, when combatants often intentionally disguise themselves as civilians to avoid detection. Even if a robot maintained 99% accuracy, the number of civilian lives lost can still be catastrophic. Due to this, it is unlikely that any fully autonomous machines will be sent into battle armed, at least until a satisfactory solution can be developed.
Navigation and Planning
Achieving nearly fully autonomous UGV navigation will require the integration of perception, path planning, communication, and various navigation techniques.
Tactical Behaviors and Learning/Adaptation
UGVs capable of adaptive behaviors sufficient to deal with complex and changing battlefield environments are far from reality. Uncertainty exists on where to draw the line between adaptive control solutions and artificial intelligence solutions. This applies to all of the software-based components of the autonomous system, including perception, navigation, planning, and behaviors.
Some of the tactical behaviors may be required to perform mission functions in combat are:
Terrain reasoning—The ability to use information about natural terrain features (elevation, vegetation, rocks, water), manmade features (roads, buildings, bridges), obstacles (mines, barriers), and weather
Military maneuver—Using terrain reasoning, mission, friendly and enemy locations to determine the best maneuver and selection of positions for stealth and to support mission package needs (e.g., hull down for direct fire, clear of overhead obstructions for indirect fire)
Agility—Using rapid, significant changes in speed and direction to reduce an enemy’s ability to acquire and hit a UGV
Self protection—Sensing threats (e.g., mines, weapon systems, humans) in sufficient time for the UGV to avoid them; using onboard weapons systems or command and control (C2) links to friendly weapons systems to neutralize an enemy.
Depending on the type of control system, the interface between machine and human operator can include joystick, computer programs, or voice command
Communications technologies are much more crucial to UGV system performance. Communication between UGV and control station can be done via radio control or fiber optics. It may also include communication with other machines and robots involved in the operation. Near-term wireless solutions, for example, are problematic. Network connectivity could easily be lost due to non–lineof-sight interference caused by terrain or other obstacles. Security attacks on dispersed unmanned systems could include denial of service, compromising of classified, highvalue tactical information, corruption of information, and, in the extreme, usurpation of the system. Communications, including mobile self-configuring networks and distributed knowledge bases, become all-important for the network-centric class UGVs.
Systems architecture integrates the interplay between hardware and software and determines UGV success and autonomy.
Vehicle control system
Unmanned ground vehicle control system is the a kind of human-machine interaction system, which is used for commanding and controlling the unmanned ground vehicle to complete the task such as mission planning, autonomous or remote control driving, reconnaissance, combat and etc., It works as the nerve center of the unmanned ground vehicles. In this complex system, human is in charge of the complex and advanced features such as monitoring, control, authorization, quick decision with the help of the intelligent assist systems. The control system is responsible for the transmission of video, audio, instruction, data and etc. It provides a friendly human-machine interface, helping the controller complete various missions such as monitoring the status of the unmanned vehicle, task load and communication equipment.
Unmanned ground vehicle developed from Remote-Operated vehicles to Autonomous , although Supervisory Control is also used to refer to situations where there is a combination of decision making from internal UGV systems and the remote human operator. Control systems are evolving with them. Early unmanned ground vehicle control system used a cable for communication within the range of sight. System performance was highly dependent on the interaction between the operator and the human-computer interaction, that directly related to efficiency, accuracy and safety.
Some examples of remote-operated UGV technology are: Unmanned Snatch Land Rover, Frontline Robotics Teleoperated UGV (TUGV), Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle (used by the United States Marine Corps), iRobot PackBot, Unmanned ground vehicle Miloš used by Serbian Armed Forces, Foster-Miller TALON, Remotec ANDROS F6A, Autonomous Solutions, Mesa Associates Tactical Integrated Light-Force Deployment Assembly (MATILDA), Vecna Robotics Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), G-NIUS Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (Israel Aerospace Industries/Elbit Systems joint venture), Guardium Robowatch ASENDRO, Ripsaw MS1, DRDO Daksh, VIPeR, DOK-ING mine clearing, firefighting, and underground mining UGV’s MacroUSA, Armadillo V2 Micro UGV (MUGV) and Scorpion SUGV, Nova 5, Krymsk APC and Clearpath Robotics.
As technology advancing, control system can provide the operator more comprehensive, accurate information including visual, tactile and other sensory information. The operability was improved. With the increasing autonomous ability of unmanned ground vehicle, control system provides more information about the platform motion and environmental conditions. It reduce the burden on staff heavily. The operator can manipulate the vehicle as in it. The staff take convenient and natural way to interact with unmanned ground vehicle.
Roboteam’s “Top Layer” autonomous technology
For example, Roboteam’s “Top Layer” technology is an advanced sensor that allows a single operator to control multiple robotic systems at once. An operator can control every feature on each robot with a single controller. This technology enables the creation of a convoy of semi-autonomous robots through the use of a communication network. The operator can navigate the convoy behind line-of-sight to capture intelligence, dispose of threats and conduct other mission-critical activities. Each robot is programmed to instinctively follow the designated leader, while also being able to explore independently. The operator can call the convoy back “home” once they have completed their mission. Sophisticated integrated sensors allow the platforms to navigate obstacles
and terrain in urban, outdoor and subterranean environments. By design, the top layer technology is interoperable – meaning
that the module works with older platforms and will scale to operate with new models in the future.
Perception technologies, including sensors, algorithms (particularly for data fusion and for “active vision” in multiple modalities), and processing capabilities, are essential.
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