Autonomy in Overdrive: Satellite-Operated Unmanned Vehicles


As the dirt road churns under the tires of the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) the driver is shielded from the cloud of dust by a cement wall—and about 200 miles of wide open space.

Perched in the control room at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Mich., the vehicle operator uses tele-operation and autonomous technology to maneuver the SMSS vehicle via satellite from more than 200 miles away at Camp Grayling. The demonstration proved that the combination of autonomy, vehicle mobility, surveillance sensors and satellite communications can provide situational awareness while keeping the warfighters out of harm’s way.

During the demonstration, the SMSS was equipped with a Gyrocam Surveillance Sensor and a General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies “SATCOM-On-the-Move” system, which allowed the vehicle operator to take the driver’s seat using high-resolution electro-optical and thermal video.

But, don’t hit the brakes yet; the SMSS vehicle goes far beyond satellite operation. From navigating on its own to avoiding obstacles in its path in the rough terrain, the SMSS solves capability gaps by lightening the Soldier’s load and serving as a power management resource.

In the dead heat of summer, heavy loads and hot temperatures can weigh soldiers down. With the help of a reliable unmanned or optionally manned transport vehicle like the SMSS, soldiers are able to lighten their load and improve combat readiness. The SMSS also has proven “follow-me” capabilities, where the vehicle can lock onto a single person and follow them based on just their 3D profile.

Having already completed numerous exercises in the U.S. as well as deployments to Afghanistan and the U.K., the SMSS promises to decrease the amount of time a Warfighter has to spend in controlling robotic systems while in the field.

SMSS is a trademark of Lockheed Martin Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Posted on May 9, 2013