U.S., Germany, Turkey Hold Robotics Exercise

The U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence recently hosted an international effort to see of allied militaries can control each other’s unmanned ground vehicles.

Army officials at Fort Benning, Ga., held the first of these experiments in mid July, working with Germany and Turkey to begin developing uniform standards for controlling and operating UGVs in the future.

“The goal of the experiment was for any of the countries to be able to control any of the other country’s assets and see how that would reduce the amount of training that would be necessary if we were doing a NATO-type exercise,” said Paul Bounker, senior computer engineer at the Army’s Tank, Automotive, Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., and a member of the team of NATO experts set up to address interoperability issues in UGVs.

This type of cooperation could be useful in an international disaster situation similar to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that occurred in Japan in 2011, Bounker said.

“They had a lot of difficulty cooling the reactors,” he said. “If we had a robotic system and the Japanese had a compliant system, we could give them our [robotic] arm and they could take that and attach a hose to it and go inside there and basically fill the reactors using the hose as opposed to trying to just dump water from up high.”

The maneuver center at Benning was recently designated as the proponent for ground robotics for the entire Army, said Eddie Davis, deputy director of the MCOE’s Maneuver Battle Lab.

Combat troops have been using small, unmanned robots for the last decade of war, but most systems have been fielded rapidly with little or no commonality between systems, officials maintain. In most cases, units have developed their own tactics, techniques and procedures for employing UGVs in combat operations.

“In a perfect world, we want to have the doctrine and the TTPs established before we give them to soldiers,” Davis said. “With budget cuts, we have got to figure out … where we are getting the big bang for the buck.”

Both the Army and Marine Corps are also working with industry to build commonality across the different platforms, said Mark Mazzara, team lead for System Engineering and Interoperability with in the Robotics Systems Joint Project Office.

“Nothing is interoperable,” he said. “You can’t take a camera off one system and put it on another one.”

The effort now involves more than 60 companies from small firms such as iRobot Corporation, QuinetiQ North America, ReconRobotics Inc. and Macro USA Corp., to giants such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

The exercise at Benning involved adapting German, Turkish and American equipment so officials could control each other’s UGVs while using them to inspect suspicious packages and mailboxes for improvised explosive devices.

 “It went very well,” Bounker said. “All the country controllers were able to control systems provided by other countries.

The hope is that the results of the experiment will encourage other countries to participate in future exercises, officials maintain. If all goes well, the effort could lead to the drafting of a Standard NATO Agreement similar to the one created for 5.56mm ammunition.

“It’s the same thought process of where it makes sense, you standardize for resupply and commonality,” Davis said.

  • Lance

    Bomb experts of the west unit!!! Sounds fun and good. BUT the writers phrase: “If all goes well, the effort could lead to the drafting of a Standard NATO Agreement similar to the one created for 5.56mm ammunition.” NATO standardization never goes well. Like US Briton in the 60s use 7.62mm NATO while France used 7.5mm. Like US Germany UK and Norway use 5.56mm NATO Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary use 7.62×39 and 5.45x39mm. Standardization does NOT mean every nation will follow.

    • blight_

      The nations that use old Soviet standards did so because they were Warsaw Pact in the early days of NATO.

      Not sure when they will switch over…

      • Riceball

        Plus France wasn’t a part of NATO for quite a while and I think they only recently joined or re-joined NATO.

  • blight_

    But…what if neo-skinhead Germany teams up with Team Sharia Turkey and then TEH HAX patriotic freedom drones in the future?! Only China can save us! /satire

    Mass panic! /more satire

    • Pharsalus

      LOL’ed VERY much


    I like how they are using a US Mail mailbox as a target…..

  • hibeam

    Turkey. A better ally than Venezuela.

  • oblatt1

    This is just one of many such initiatives standardization is being used to create monopolies so that contractors can be shoveled funds without the bother of competition.

    The flip side is getting away from war-fighting and back to the core values as a money funnel. That’s why they are holding a Special Olympics while men are dying of IEDs in a real war. Or to put it more succinctly – “the ‘real’ war is where the money is not where the men are dying”

    • Musson

      It used to require an act of congress to shovel money into the pockets of contractors. No longer the case.

  • Palma

    Realizing it is my choice and my choice alone to be Reconnaissance Marine, I accept all challenges involved with this profession. Forever shall I strive to maintain the tremendous reputation of those who went before me.

    • Ben

      Is there a reason for you saying this?

      • Oblat2
        • Ben

          So it’s just unnecessary marine bravado. I guessed as much.

        • http://twitter.com/HarryInventor @HarryInventor

          Your job is now done better by a tracked vacuum cleaner with attitude.
          Time to get over it.
          Get back in line for your bowl of soup and when they ask which job you want to retrain into at the end of your tour, do not say ‘burger flipper’. It’s a tough and saturated field, u.s.marine girl.

  • JohnnyRanger

    Doesn’t that robot know that tampering with or defacing the property of the United States Postal Service is a crime?

  • hibeam

    The Turks didn’t have any robots so they provided a bomb defusing puppet.