Robots: Soldiers' Trusty Sidekicks
A Trusty Sidekick
While some robots often go where humans can’t, others are designed to work alongside people. Lockheed Martin’s Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) initially was designed mainly to carry a squad’s battle gear to help lighten the load and make its mission physically easier.
Serving the U.S. Army for five months in Afghanistan, this semi-autonomous unmanned ground vehicle worked in tandem with troops on-the-ground on transport and logistics, resupply, portable power and battery charging, and transport of infrastructure materials. Back in the U.S., SMSS demonstrated its surveillance capabilities by performing missions via satellite with its operator stationed 200 miles away. SMSS also has demonstrated its effectiveness at defeating improvised explosive devices, and is being evaluated for a variety of civil applications, including firefighting, border surveillance and industrial security.
SMSS - Squad Mission Support System
Watch how the SMSS unmanned vehicle lightens the load for soldiers
The newest member of the SMSS family is the Fire Ox. This new firefighting variant provides wildland firefighters, first responders and other members of the Emergency Management Community with a new tool for their arsenal of lifesaving equipment.
With the ability to suppress fires, assist with search and rescue, and manage hazardous materials, the Fire Ox can go where humans cannot. As a result, the Fire Ox minimizes casualties and injuries, while also reducing the amount of time it takes to extinguish fires and extract victims.
Lightening the Load
Another ground-vehicle system designed to ease the workload on humans is AMAS. Short for Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System, AMAS offers driving assistance for autonomous convoy operation.
By integrating low-cost sensors and control systems onto U.S. Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicles, AMAS can reduce the dangers of driving in a combat zone. Engaging AMAS’ autonomy features can lead to a reduction in crew fatigue, the elimination of rear-end collisions, enhancement of driver situational awareness and the ability to mount a more effective response to an attack.
In an August 2011 American Forces Press Service article, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, underscored in personal terms in the potential value of autonomous systems. “When I look at the 153 soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Lynch said, referring to soldiers who died under his command in Iraq, “I know that 80 percent of them were placed in a situation where we could have placed an unmanned system in the same job.”
Updated May 9, 2014