Sunday, September 14, 2008

Little Dragon Runner 'Bot Gets a Grip

Urban warfare operations may become just a little less dangerous for our Marines in the near future. Why? Because a bunch of researchers at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania have teamed up with the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) in Quantico Virginia to create a small, lightweight little Mighty Mouse of a prototype "concept demonstrator" robot called the Dragon Runner Mobile Ground Sensor System (or just "Dragon Runner", for short), which is a man-portable mobile reconnaissance/scout robot (or "bot"), that will travel at up to 20 miles per hour and allow our Marines to "see around the corner" in urban combat/warfare environments. Dragon Runner is part of The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory's (MCWL) Project Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition, or Project RSTA, for short. According to the Project RSTA fact sheet, "Project RSTA is an umbrella project that experiments with reconnaissance and surveillance concepts and integrates successful concepts into the Expeditionary Force Development System (EFDS)".
At 15.5" long, 11.25" wide, and 5" high, with an overall weight of 16 lbs, Dragon Runner is one tough little low-signature/low-observable (quiet and small) cookie. Basically, the little recon bot is designed to be treated like the proverbial "redheaded stepchild". More specifically, it's designed to withstand...
being tossed over walls, chucked out of windows, and heaved over stairs and other obstacles, and then sent off on its way, looking for badguys. A non-active, invertible suspension and durable overall construction allow Dragon Runner to withstand and inordinate amount of physical abuse and continue to operate no matter how it lands. According to Capt. Dave Moreau, project officer for Dragon Runner at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL), "there's no right side up" with Dragon Runner and it's successfully handled being thrown off the back of a moving vehicle at 45 miles per hour.

Hagen Schempf
is a principle research/systems scientist at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, and Dragon Runner's chief architect (designer/developer). According to Schempf, "Dragon Runner is the lightest, smallest, most rugged, readily portable robot system for remote scouting operations in existence today." Schempf goes on to say that "it has the potential to be the eyes and ears of the Marines in forward urban operations, allowing them to gather intelligence without being in harm's way. It is a tool that reduces potential lethal exposure to our troops by reducing the amount of time that they expose themselves to danger."
So it can "sneak and peak", Dragon Runner is outfitted with a small video camera, an audio mic, IR (infrared) illuminators (for night operations), and IR sensors (for obstacle avoidance), and is controlled remotely by a single operator via a control unit tethered to Dragon Runner's nifty carry backback by an expandable cord that looks like a much thicker version of the cord that connects a phone handset to its base on a normal house phone. Since most Marines today have most likely grown up gaming with Sony Playstation2, Microsoft XBox, and Nintendo, controlling Dragon Runner is most likely a relative piece of cake.
Currently, the complete Dragon Runner Mobile Ground Sensor System, including remote control unit and backpack, costs $46,000. If and when Dragon Runner goes into volume production, however, Moreau says that the price-per-unit is likely to drop 40 to 50 percent. The following is how the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) Dragon Runner page describes the Dragon Runner Mobile Ground Sensor System:

Dragon Runner is a small, four-wheeled, rear-wheel drive, front-wheel steer, man-portable mobile ground sensor designed to increase situational awareness. It will give tactical Marine units the capability to “see around the corner” in an urban environment. Dragon Runner is part of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab's Project RSTA, an effort to develop a reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition network of sensors that portrays a picture of the battlespace, enabling enhanced situational awareness for small unit leaders.

Detailed Description


Spec. Sheet

Movie Clips

QinetiQ launches new small UGV
United Press International - Sep 11, 2008
MCLEAN, Va., Sept. 11 (UPI) -- QinetiQ North America announced the release of its new small unmanned ground reconnaissance and bomb-disarmament vehicle. ...
QinetiQ North America Rolls Out a Robotic First: the Field ... (press release), Switzerland - Sep 11, 2008
MCLEAN, Va. , Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- QinetiQ North America's Technology Solutions Group today launches its new Dragon Runner Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle ...
QinetiQ Intros 'Dragon Runner' Unmanned Robot System for Military ...
TMCnet - Sep 11, 2008
By Shamila Janakiraman QinetiQ (News - Alert) North America announced the launch of its new Dragon Runner Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (Dragon Runner SUGV) ...

QinetiQ North America Rolls Out a Robotic First: the Field ...
Biloxi Sun Herald, USA - Sep 10, 2008
10 -- QinetiQ North America's Technology Solutions Group today launches its new Dragon Runner Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (Dragon Runner SUGV). ...LON:QQ - TSCC - TPO:1584

Get a Deep Insight into The Emerging UMV and UGV Markets 2008-2018
MarketWatch - Sep 4, 2008
... Autonomous Ground Vehicle 10.1.2 Armed Robotic Vehicle (ARV) 10.1.3 Dragon Runner Mobile Ground Sensor System 10.1.4 BigDog 10.1.5 LittleDog ...

No comments: