Lockheed Martin conducts first fully autonomous robot mission

August 19, 2014 by John Kent
A Lockheed Martin K-MAX unmanned helicopter delivers an SMSS unmanned ground vehicle during a fully autonomous mission demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia.  A safety pilot was on board K-MAX but did not operate the controls at any point during the demonstration.

Lockheed Martin, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), successfully conducted a fully autonomous resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition demonstration using its Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle, K-MAX unmanned helicopter and Gyrocam optical sensor.

During the "Extending the Reach of the Warfighter through Robotics" capability assessment at Fort Benning, Georgia, K-MAX delivered SMSS by sling load to conduct an autonomous resupply mission scenario for soldiers defending a village. At mission completion, SMSS proceeded to an observation point where it raised its Gyrocam sensor and began scanning the area for enemy forces. In an actual mission, upon observation of enemy forces, the remote operator would notify the commander on the ground, who would assess the threat and determine the appropriate method of neutralizing it.

"Fully autonomous capabilities as we've just demonstrated will allow service members to focus on important missions and remain out of harm's way," said Scott Greene, vice president of Ground Vehicles for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "This successful demonstration with both unmanned air and ground vehicles shows us that these missions are not only possible, but can be available much sooner than you would expect."

"The synergistic use of unmanned air and will give warfighters a larger operational reach, and allow execution of missions that are currently performed at great risk to the warfighter," said Dr. Paul Rogers, TARDEC director.

In 2011, K-MAX became the first system to deliver cargo in-theater for the U.S. Marine Corps. As troops were frequent targets of improvised explosive devices and insurgent attacks, K-MAX answered the call to reduce the number of truck resupply convoys and their troop escorts to protect Soldiers on the ground.

Manufactured by Kaman Aerospace Corporation and outfitted with its mission package of systems and sensors, the heavy-lifting K-MAX unmanned system is a transformational technology that can lift 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level. Capable of flying delivery missions day and night, K-MAX can reach remote locations without risking a life.

"This demonstration signifies another use for robots and this brings us closer to the pinnacle of how we use unmanned systems," said Dan Spoor, vice president of Aviation and Unmanned Systems at Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Training business. "There is significant potential for these types of systems for humanitarian aid, the civilian oil and gas industry, firefighting and for other military applications."

During the test, the Gyrocam 9-inch, mid-wave surveillance sensor provided constant video surveillance during each phase of the , including while in flight. The elevated system scanned for threats and provided geo-location coordinates of hostile personnel for indirect-fire missions.

Both SMSS and K-MAX were equipped with mobile Satellite Communications (SATCOM) systems as well as local line-of-sight communications systems. A remote operations center equipped with SATCOM controlled and monitored the vehicles' activities throughout the demonstration.

Explore further: Autonomous vehicle to demonstrate portable battery charging for dismounted soldiers

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Netherlands bank customers can get vocal on payments

August 1, 2015

Are some people fed up with remembering and using passwords and PINs to make it though the day? Those who have had enough would prefer to do without them. For mobile tasks that involve banking, though, it is obvious that ...

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much more—sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.